Sunday, November 06, 2005

Holy Name Church, Kansas City Missouri

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.

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 fa├žade 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.

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.


Dr. Bombay said...

I can see Holy Name from my office window downtown too. I drove by it one day. I wasn't sure it was a Catholic Church at one time, but I thought it might be. Ugh. Makes me sick.

I suppose the Prots destroyed the High Altar and other liturgical accouterments. Lord knows the diocese wasn't too concerned about removing such consecreated objects from old churches before they were shuttered back in the day.

I like to imagine that Bishop Sullivan's penance in Purgatory is having to say the Traditional Latin Mass every day exactly according to the rubrics. And if he makes one deviation, he gets another 1,000 years tacked on.

Terribly uncharitable thought I know, but that's just me. Somebody has to pay for the vandalization and selling off of our precious patrimony, right?

Craig said...

I'm doing a research project on the '68 riots following MLK's assassination. Holy Name played a central role in the riots. Shortly after a protest at city hall in which tear gas was used, people went to Holy Name to attend a dance sponsored by a radio station. Apparently things got out of hand and the cops ended up lobbing tear gas into the building. Shortly after that things went down hill fast on KC's east side.

Scott said...

Great story on the church...Unfortunately, even tho it's not had a great past, the current owners of the property have filed for a demolition permit. As I understand it, this structure is on the National Register. How much more waste will there be to tear it down...

psieve2 said...

I agree with Dr. Bombay about the wreckovations. It was as if Catholics tore out the statues that were at Westminster Abbey, but it's worse it were altars and altar rails that went starting in the '60s. God will renew the Church with some amazing person, like He always did with people such as Sts. Francis of Asissi and Ignatius Loyola and Sts John of the Cross and Therese of Avila. Unfortunately, many who were scandalized don't get back on the barque--even in those times. When we get over our identity crisis and stop looking at religious leaders of false religions to help bring peace, instead of realizing it's our duty as the Church, involving properly said Masses according to the rubrics, we get back to borders, language and culture and Christ as the Prince of Peace, I'll believe in a new springtime.

Anonymous said...

I agree, it is a shame that alot of churches with historical significances are demonized by the current demographics around kansas city. I remember being a kid and going to St. Vincent with my grandmother every week. We live in Olathe, and she refused to go to a "stuck up JOCO church." She just wouldn't haave it. I think the neighborhoods play a big role in why people would rather worship in a steel warehouse. Not great areas for attending mid-night mass either. It's a real shame that the diocese funds for the miniature basilicas around but not for a community that could use it. I don't even go to that part of town anymore unless I'm driving by for work.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of the original church building? My cousin was married there in 1904 and it was listed at 23rd & Walrond.

St. Giauis said...

What has happend to "Holy Name" Catholic Church is regratable. There is a young man who has used his own money to purchase this building with the intention to return it to it's original use. The past is over and done with it is the present and the future that we can affect. What have the individuals who have posted comments on this blog done to preserve this building?.

Kathy said...

Am curious to know who the contractor or the stone mason was on the original building. How would I find that info?

Chris said...

I drove by and took a few pictures today and found out the Church in the process of being torn down. It's a shame that it will be gone soon.

Anonymous said...

The stones from Holy Name are going to be reused to rebuild the front pourch of St. Peter prince of Apostles Parish in Brookside. Even though the Church is gone (or will be shortly) its stones will help a fellow parish minister the love of Christ to the lost!

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across this church today while exploring Kansas City. If the demolition was under way last Fall, it must have stopped. The church is halfway disassembled and now resembles a 'haunted house'...but there is no sign of heavy machinery for continued work.

Anonymous said...

My name is Ann Capen Hunt and I live in Memphis now, but I grew up in Kansas City. Recently I discovered several old photos of Dominican priests who served at Holy Name Parish (e.g. Father Kelley and Father Fowler), along with pictures of some classmates and teachers of my grandmother (Mae Draney Capen) from Holy Names School. I am wondering if these are associated with the Holy Names Church in Kansas city which was recently destroyed. Also, I wonder if anyone might be interested in some of these old photos. Some names were Rose Clark, Mrs. Walters (music teacher),Cecilia Hefter, and Bernard and Frank Wimmer. Is there a history published about the church and school, or is anyone alive who serves as an historian of this parish?

Thank you.