On the outskirts of downtown St. Louis sits a neighborhood with historical roots that run to 1836, when Victorian settlers built and founded Lafayette Square, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
A decade after the neighborhood’s inception, St. Louis founded its City Hospital on the edge of the historic Lafayette Square. It thrived for more than a century, but in 1985, the original St. Louis City Hospital closed its doors, and the 12-building, brick complex stood abandoned for nearly 20 years. It wasn’t until 2006 that the city began multi-million-dollar renovations to the complex, transforming the majority of the remaining buildings into condominiums and apartments.
In 2012, one of the original hospital complex’s appendages—a power plant building constructed in 1937—caught the attention of Stacy Hastie, chairman and CEO of Environmental Operations, a firm that helps its partners limit environmental risks. He and his wife, Carol, purchased the building, and approached Vern Remiger, owner of St. Louis–based architecture and design firm Remiger Design, to turn the old power plant into an upscale full-service restaurant.
Remiger and the couple had worked together on past renovation and design projects, and by the summer of 2013, they had completed and opened Element, a dining concept heralding “contemporary comfort” as its core objective. The group worked collaboratively to design the two-story restaurant, composed of a dining room, a bar and lounge, a dining terrace, a lounge terrace, and a small, private dining room.
“We engaged the entire team from the get-go,” says Cara McKedy, interior designer at Remiger Design. “Because of that, we had a very comprehensive approach to the design, to the business side of the restaurant, and to the food that would be delivered.”
The group created an atmosphere that preserved the original integrity of the building while simultaneously infusing a modern edge to match the neighborhood’s latest revitalization efforts. Since the building exists within a historic neighborhood, limitations existed regarding modifications that could be done to the building. This caveat, however, aligned seamlessly with the team’s vision for the restaurant.
“We really wanted to celebrate the raw beauty of the old powerhouse,” McKedy says. For example, a robust steel structure exists on the lounge level of the building, and the team chose to leave it exposed. Additional lighting celebrates and showcases the steel structure’s aging process.
“We had this juxtaposition in our minds between the historic and the industrial,” McKedy adds. “The new, modern, and sleek kitchen—along with some beautiful furniture pieces—were incorporated to [connect] what was an older, historic space with the new, up-and-coming neighborhood, revitalizing it and bringing it into the future, making it current for today.”