Public weighs in on the fate of the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital


The Old St. Elizabeth Hospital at 109 Virginia in Hannibal. The derelict building was the topic of discussion on Tuesday at a public meeting to gather public input on tearing the building down. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Hannibal residents who gathered at city hall on Tuesday night for a public meeting gave a majority opinion that it’s time to tear down old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Hannibal Mayor Barry Louderman and City Manager Lisa Peck spoke to the group about the dilapidated state of the building and discussed possible funding sources for the estimated $4 million to $5 million demolition.

Peck said a possible funding source could be to extend the current infrastructure tax by five years. 

Peck said no one is currently interested in the property at 109 Virginia. She said the estimated demolition cost is $4.7 million. She said that amount could change over time, until they get a bid.

Peck said a possible funding source would be the infrastructure tax which is expected to generate about $2 million a year. She also suggested presenting a five-year extension of the infrastructure tax to Hannibal voters.

Louderman believes the building is past the point of saving. 

He said if someone approached council with a development plan, they would need to have the estimated $25 million in hand, also pointing out that a developer would find it a challenge to make that money back. 

Louderman said they would also not wait for tax credits, as they have exhausted that method of funding through five previous attempts which were all denied. 

Hannibal City Clerk Melissa Cogdal took a turn on the other side of the aisle, speaking to the council as 30-year Virginia street resident.

“I’m not going to speak about demolishing the building because the building is coming down one of two ways—it’s going to fall down or we’re going to take it down,” she said.

Cogdal gave a timeline of events explaining the ownership of the building, which was originally built in 1915 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Mo., up to when the City of Hannibal took control of the building in 2017. 

Hannibal Regional Hospital moved to its current campus in 1993, and continued to use the building for office space and in other capacities until 2007. According to Cogdal, the building was purchased in 2007 by a commercial group. Cogdal reported the group had financial problems in 2009 causing them to eventually abandon the property. 

From 2009-2011 Cogdal said citations were repeatedly issued to the property while the City of Hannibal became responsible for upkeep of the property. 

Cogdal said the building caused concern for public safety over the years, and grows more dangerous every day. 

She recalled a large sinkhole in the back parking lot around where neighborhood children played, which was eventually covered by the city. She also reported fires breaking out in the building and individuals coming and going from the building day and night.

She also showed recent pictures of the building, displaying rooms filled with debris from broken windows and crumbling walls, exposed elevator shafts, etc. Although boarded up by the city, the old hospital continues to be a popular place for squatters, as was evidenced by wall graffiti. 

Cogdal said she was asked many times over more than two decades to be patient while the city searched for a developer. According to Cogdal she was told several times the cost of the demolition was too high-–a number she said inched closer to a million as years went by.

Former Hannibal Mayor John Lyng told the council he supports tearing down the building, but asked they look at many different areas of funding. One of his suggestions was asking Hannibal Regional Hospital to help fund the demolition.

Todd Ahrens, president and CEO of Hannibal Regional Hospital, happened to be in the crowd and responded to Lyng’s suggestion. 

“It’s difficult for anyone to expect the hospital or the healthcare system to take on financial responsibility for a building we haven’t owned or had any right to do anything with for 17 years,” he said. 

Mark Bross, Hannibal branch manager at engineering firm Klingner and Associates, said the building’s status on the National Register of Historical Places, which was added in 2012, could cause delays for the demolition. 

He asked Peck if St. Elizabeth’s could be a site for voluntary cleanup as a brownfield, which is what a former commercial site affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. Peck said she will look into it.

Stephan Franke, 3rd Ward council member, said he knows Hannibal residents are ready to see something happen at the site. His concern with the funding source is to make sure Hannibal workers are not asked to make sacrifices in order to tear down the building.

“The mark of a successful city is not one that has to take on debt or new funding to tear down a building—that’s a sign of a city in decline. That’s an unfortunate reality,” he said.  

Franke also said he believes before the building is torn down that they have a redevelopment plan already in place.

“If this city is not going to be a city in decline, we have to learn how to handle multiple big issues to design and think over the long term. And you know, that’s what this would be,” he said.

Recent pictures of the inside of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital provided by Melissa Cogdal.

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