I have some family in St. Louis. When I come by in the summer time we go to the Cardinal’s games. We take the metro link from Hanley to the stadium. The view of the city is beautiful. I see many abandoned building, but this one stands out. It is a old HUGE building (like hospital size), it is brick and has a green roof. It is between the UM-St. Louis south stop and the St. Charles Rock Road stop. What is it?
On the West side, right?
I believe that’s the old St. Vincent’s Seminary building.
I don’t know if it’s currently in use.
Are you sure it was a seminary, GaryM? I’ll certainly bow to your specialist local knowledge, but I believe the building’s use was somewhat different.
Looking at the aerial view on Google maps, my first thought was that it really looked like a Kirkbride mental asylum, with the imposing central entrance and stepped-back wings. The map shows the street as “Castle Park Drive”, and the adjacent park as “St Vincent County Park”. This site describes the “Castle Park apartment complex” and goes into details about its architecture, especially the slate roof.
I’d found references to a “St Vincent’s Sanitarium” in the area, but no smoking gun linking it to the OP’s building. [In that area of St Louis (called Normandy), there are multiple Catholic institutions, leading to its nickname of the “Little Rome of the West”.]
Here we learn about the man for whom:
The most useful Web resource for US insane asylums is here, but there’s no further informationon its listing of the St. Vincent’s Insane Asylum, St. Louis (the site focuses mainly on state-run asylums).
Since the aerial view of the building shows no apparent disrepair, and there are several cars parked around it (thus leading me to believe that it wasn’t abandoned), but the Web didn’t give a definite cite for the building’s past use, I bit the bullet and called the number for the Castle Park Apartments. I spoke to a pleasant and helpful woman who confirmed that it had indeed been a mental asylum run by the St Vincent de Paul organization, had closed in the early 1970’s, and reopened as subsidized senior citizen housing in 1983.
Yes, I was there in the early 1970s before it closed. It was known simply as St. Vincent’s Hospital. I don’t know whether it was specifically for mentally ill patients – I do know by that time it was being used as a nursing home.
I bow to Antonius Block’s ability to dial the phone. I was going on what I was told once when a friend and I rode by on MetroLink. I asked what that building was and he replied “St. Vincent’s Seminary”. :smack:
I do know, from personal experience, that the junk yard just South of the “Rock Road” on the West side of the tracks is the old site of the Olympic Drive In. Famous for showing soft core porn in the 60’s and 70’s.
Thanks for the supporting anecdote, kunilou, and the clarification, GaryM.
A couple more links:
[li]From here (PDF File):[/li][QUOTE]
St. Vincent’s Institution for the Insane, later renamed St. Vincent’s Sanitarium, was founded by the Sisters of Charity for the treatment of mental and nervous diseases. It opened in August 1858 at Ninth and Marion Streets in St. Louis with four patients and fifteen sisters. In 1891, the home relocated to St. Charles Rock Road in St. Louis County. The home was in part financed by the patients’ fees. By 1941 the home was operated by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul for the treatment of mental and nervous disorders as well as selected cases of alcoholism and drug habituation. The home remained in existence until the 1980s.
In the summer of 1975, Anna moved to St. Louis, Missouri.
She was hospitalized twice, against her will, at St. Vincents Hospital, and forced to take psychotropic medications.
So, St Vincent’s treated psychiatric disorders at least until 1975, and the first of the above links suggests that it stayed open later than suggested by my helpful in situ source in post #3.
It was indeed a psychiatric hospital, run by the Daughters of Charity. I lived in Indianapolis and attended St Vincent School of Nursing there, but we were sent to this place for our psychiatric rotation. I lived in an adjacent building for three months. Probably spring of 1961.
I was in heaven because the hospital was surrounded by seven cemeteries and three golf courses and I was there in the spring months. I sort of ran wild. Now I see it is surrounded by interstate!
St Vincent’s was the site of the exorcism of Robbie Mannheim / Roland Doe (pseudonyms given to protect the individual’s identity) in 1949. William Peter Blatty later went on to use this episode as the basis for his book (1971) and film (1973), ‘The Exorcist’. It is now Castle Park Apartments. For example, see http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/movies/new-exorcism-movie-upsets-normandy-seniors-home/article_5b868d22-ccb6-11df-9027-00127992bc8b.html
Seminary… insane asylum… you were close!
I was a patient at St Vincent’s in 1973 when I was 16 or 17. I lived on the closed ward 4 North which housed kids between the age of 13 - 17 or 18. My mother put me in there because we did not get along and I was taking drugs to numb my pain caused by her. It was a scary place. Lots of shock treatments (others, not me) which are really creepy because the patient would lose all memory. My ward had a padded cell with a wooden table in the middle with restraints. I have seen patients get into fits and brought to the cell to be restrained. There was a little glass window on the door where you could see the patient. I had a psychiatrist there by the name of Dr. Timothy Edwards. I hated him! While I was at St Vincent’s my mother and Dr Edwards were having an affair. They used to gang up on me together. They continued to date after I left. I was there for 2 1/2 months. I was supposed to be there for 2 weeks for observation but my parents fought over me so I continued to stay because I could not move back in with my mother. Eventually, I gave in and moved back in with her. Big mistake. At St Vincent’s I lived among very mentally ill kids and adults. Schizophrenics, major neurosis, child abuse, suicidals and on and on. I remember how high the ceilings were, the cries and moans at night, the screaming, etc. The building is huge and gothic looking with turrets and spires. It sits on top of a hill with lots of land around it. Living in that old 1800’s building gave the place an eery atmosphere. It was a really scary place. The rumors did not help. I heard things like the place is haunted, the basement has restraints on the walls from the 1800’s, there was an exorcism. Later, I found out that Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist was based on a real person. The person was a boy from D.C. His parents sent him to live with his aunt in Normandy because they wanted him to have an exorcism to rid him of demons. Since St Louis is one of the capitals in the Catholic religion, his parents felt he would get the most help there. This boy often went to St Vincent’s. This place has a really creepy past. Anyone else out there ever stayed at St Vincent’s?
My family built a home in the new Engleholm Gardens subdivision created from land that had been part of St. Vincent’s in 1954. That castle-like building loomed over our little horseshoe of neat and tidy bungalows a constant present. As it happened, an aunt of mine was committed there and then a neighbor who was having post-birth trauma after having a little girl. We heard many stories about St. Vincent’s and its awful shock treatments and at Christmas time the nuns would come around to invite children to a big Christmas party there. We are Jewish but my little brother went anyway and loved those parties. The nuns were very sweet. St. Vincents indeed was one place the young man involved in the true exorcism which formed the basis for Peter Blatty’s book. Strange incidents did take place in his presence and he eventually was moved to Alexian Brothers Hospital for the eventual exorcism ritual. By the way, he was not Catholic. When St. Vincent’s was remodeled for senior housing the 5th floor was no renovated for that purpose. The 5th floor is where the young man had been housed. I also talked with a gentleman who was working on renovation in the basement one day and he said he heard a child singing and there in front of him was a little boy rocking back and forth in rocking chair. The gentleman packed up his tools, left and vowed never to return. Yes, the building is fantastic, a gigantic, ornate, overwhelming castle with beautiful grounds and at one time its own commuter station on the Wabash Railroad line which is now the light rail line Metrolink. And I think the building still holds many secrets.
I was there when I was in the 5th grade. Parents took me to a shrink- Dr. Felix Laroca who was big psych doc in town since arrested for child molestation- for behavior stuff typical of bipolar disorder. Ten yrs old.
Memories: day room on Adult Ward. Two of us kids there. Woman in wheelchair, head shaved, scar on skull staring into space, gown hanging open to reveal vagina. Being taught to smoke cigarettes, wearing bandana hippie style in ward. We went to a tutor. I was lead to believe I could play golf and bowl there- thought I was going to Disneyland.
Walking thru halls on way to ‘school’ and older kids (you ?) making faces, calling us munchkins and doing the whole acid head thing- singing follow the yellow brick rd to freak us out.
I was told I could have pizza (make it in kitchen) but not allowed to. Got smart with nurse who called orderlies- I was thrown to the ground, put in a straight jacket, and put in a padded room. I felt like I was suffocating. Horrible.
When I returned to school all asked where I had been…was I sick…WTF was I supposed to say. I avoided people, became isolated, thought I was insane. Was full of hatred towards my parents. I became a drug addict…don’t know what they gave me here, but drugs started in this hell hole. Valium? Crappy 1st generation antidepressants.
I have been looking for the little girl that was there with me- would have been 1972 or 1973- to ask her if all of this really happened. If you somehow see ths, contact me. I will know its you if you remember the rabbits foot.
Thank you for writing this account. Thank you very much. I have pulled my life together and am a professional, but still do not really have many friends for fear of them finding out too much about me. This was One Flew Over The Cukoos nest. Exactly the setting. I remember driving up to this place- Vincent Price horror movies came to mind. I did not know about the excorcist- holy shit.thank you for this post. I think.