by Michael R. Allen
The seven-story Broadview Hotel at 5th and Broadway in East St. Louis is one of several tall buildings that anchor downtown. The 13-story Spivey Building is the tallest, the adjance Murphy Building and Majestic Theater are wonderfully ornate and the First National Bank Building is a solid red-brick corner building that is still occupied. Through demolition, the Broadview sits away from the concentration of other large downtown buildings. Through placement of the 4th Street exit ramp from Interstate 55/64/70, is the first major building greeting motorists entering East St. Louis.
Built in 1927, the Broadview has the characteristic elegance of pre-crash 1920s hotel design. The symmetrical brown brick body contrasts with buff terra cotta forming two bays and providing other ornament. Unlike some of the exuberant foliate terra cotta seen on contemporary St. Louis hotels like the Chase and Coronado, the design here is a rather sober interpretation of Renaissance Revival themes. Still, the hotel is powerful, especially through the rise of the terra cotta bays to form a temple-like top story that towers over the city.
For many years, this temple was the crown of a palace of night life, conventions, dinners and even a radio station (WTMV 1490 AM was located here). As East St. Louis’ fortunes drowned in a powerful current of American industrial reorganization, so did the those of the Broadview. The Broadview ended up housing a branch of Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville (SIUE) until 2004. The first floor’s storefronts, once open to a bustling business district, have long been clad in forbidding granite blocks.
In 2006, SIUE ceded the Broadview to the City of East St. Louis. The city has long been dealing with the other big vacant downtown buildings, but lacked clear title to the others. The Broadview was not boarded up for long. In 2009, East St. Louis awarded development rights to CDC Development Corporation, headed by Donald J. Johnson. CDC plans a $35 million renovation ofthe hotel into 88 loft-style apartments. Preliminary work is now underway, and many of the hotel’s windows are again unboarded.