Took an hour today to get some fresh air and drive about Kansas City, Missouri. I did so with my digital camera and an idea to get some photographs of Catholic churches in Kansas City which have been shuttered. This week I'll feature four of them.
I just got back in from my drive, and now I'm kicking myself because I should have taken (in addition to these low res B/W photos suitable for my blog) some higher-resolution pics, and even some color shots.
I'll start today with Holy Name Church, at 23rd & Belton, built under the direction of the Order of Preachers. I'm starting with Holy Name because I can see it from my office, and years ago, over lunch, I hunted it down. When I first found it, in 2001, there was a chain link fence around it, and there were gaping holes in the roof and windows. Now it's the Future Home of New Day Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Frank L. Selkirk, Choir Director, the Church where the LOVE of JESUS is SHINING THROUGH. Mr. Selkirk's congregation doesn't appear to be prosperous, but at least, they managed to put up some plywood over the holes, and it's not the sun that's shining through.
Whose fault is it that this church is now, less than a century after it was built, on its way to becoming a ruin? That's a complex question. Partially, Eisenhower's to blame, because his interstate highway system made it possible for people to live in places like Gardner and Belton and Excelsior Springs and still commute to work. Partially, it has to be the Bishop and the Dominicans, or whomever was entrusted with the parish, for their failure to evangelize the newcomers to the neighborhood as the original parisioners moved out to the burbs. But then, sometimes, these things just happen. Sad nonetheless.
Please, especially if you're from the Kansas City area, comment on these--let me know what YOU know about the parishes and their demise, and make some suggestions for other churches that I might want to feature.
And those of you from the east coast or Europe, do spare us poor midwesterners your scoffing at our eighty-year-old buildings. Just because our ruins don't date from the 17th Century, or the 12th Century ruins doesn't mean that we can't be saddened by them.
FYI, you can get a better look at these pictures by clicking on them.
UPDATE DECEMBER 6, 2005:
Holy Name, the very first closed church I featured here, has an interesting history. After reading the entry in This Far by Faith, I could only conclude that Holy Name (impressive as it is) was, perhaps, a church that should never have been built. If you build it, they don't always come. Although plagued by money problems from the beginning, the Dominicans planned a huge English Gothic church complete with a massive central spire over the transept. In 1911, the foundations and the basement were built at a cost of $56,587. Money ran out, so the basement was covered over and work stopped for 14 years. Finally, a new architect was hired, H. W. Brinkman of Emporia, Kansas, who modified and saw the church built in 1925. It was designed to seat 1,000. Instead of the central spire, the smaller spire on the façade was constructed. The final cost was $175,000, of which $75,000 was borrowed from the diocese. Money problems continued, and the Dominicans schemed in various ways to draw people in—even with plans for a bowling alley in the basement. It was reported that at one time before closure, collections ran around $175 on a Sunday with four Masses. Finally, in 1975, the parish was suppressed and folded in with Annunciation and St. Vincent de Paul (two other churches I've featured) to form "Church of the Risen Christ" at the Annunciation site. In fifty years, Holy Name parish only managed to repay $23,000 of its diocesan debt, and the Dominican order wrote off a much bigger loan. On July 15, 1975, the building was sold to a congregation of the Church of God in Christ, which (in order to conserve energy) built a shell inside the building in which they held their services. It is reported that the stained glass windows were not visible from inside the shell. If you're ever in the Central library or find a copy of This Far by Faith near you, you ought to look up the entry for Holy Name, where you'll find, among other things, a rendering of the church as originally planned, with the central spire. It would have been breathtaking.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 14, 2006
I've added an interior shot (from after the sanctuary was messed up in the Spirit of Vatican II, as you can tell) and also --one of the more interesting things in This Far by Faith, a rendering of the church as it was originally planned. One more interesting bit of detail from a closer reading of the book is that there was a tear-gassing incident in April 9, 1968, the day of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, funeral. It was Tuesday of Holy Week, and the parish was hosting a dance in the basement, and for whatever reason, the cops fired six cylinders of tear gas inside. That incident, and other, touched off rioting in Kansas City. Among other questions I have about this incident is "why on earth would you host a dance on Tuesday of Holy Week? Was this a run-up to the Good Friday carnival? There's a subtext to the story of Holy Name if you read the article carefully, and that is that the Dominicans were losing their focus on teaching the Catholic faith, and that loss of focus (as well as general "white flight" to the suburbs) contributed to the demise of Holy Name.