Thursday, November 24, 2005

Loretto Academy, Kansas City, Missouri



Family obligations have prevented me from continuing my exploring or doing further research into closed Kansas City, Missouri Catholic churches, so I'll stray a little from my main theme and feature the Loretto, formerly the Loretto Academy, a big structure built in 1903 to house the girls' school run by the Sisters of Loretto. In its day, it was one of the places to send your girls to school. It was (I read in a Kansas City Star article last year or so) also point of contention when integration came shortly after World War II (the Bishop, I read, forbade any Catholic parochial school to accept girls transferring from Loretto because of the integration).

I'm not exactly sure when the Loretto closed. Kind readers please inform me. When I moved to Kansas City in the mid-1990s, I believe the building had been purchased by some evangelical sect, which was using the building as an independent Bible college. At some point, it was rehabilitated, and now it's the home of some neighborhood non-profit association and it also has loft apartments. One can rent out rooms for meetings, I think, and one can rent out the chapel for weddings and commitment ceremonies and such things. At some point, I need to call over and get the story. As for the Sisters of Loretto themselves...a quick google search will confirm that they've gone off the deep end. Sometimes when I drive by I think of the Loretto convent/hospital/school and chapel in Santa Fe, started by sisters recruited by the saintly proto-bishop of Santa Fe, Jean-Baptiste Lamy (fictionalized as Archbishop LaTour in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop). That Loretto has been turned into a hotel, where we sometimes stayed when we vacationed in New Mexico as a kid. The chapel was a tiny gothic thing with a "miraculous staircase" to the choir loft built by an unknown carpenter (piously believed to be St. Joseph, I think). It was a spiral staircase built with no central support.

But back to THIS building: The style is pretty classical--lots of dentil moulding and a nifty oxidized copper cupola top this red-brick symmetrical building. The cornerstone has been defaced (it must have made reference to the Blessed Mother (offending the evangelical sect) or to the Deity (offending everyone else in this heathen part of town). However, carved in wood relief over the main entrance are the words FIDES MORES CULTURA; those didn't get defaced by anyone (thank God for those sticky preservation requirements attached to historic tax credits). The chapel is substantial, you can see it as the center wing extending south, behind the main building (which faces north).

Although not a church, the Loretto campus is another example of what wiser men describe as the devastated vineyard in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. When I daydream of the renaissance, I imagine it as a seminary (it goes like this: the FSSP or the reconciled SSPX have so expanded their seminaries that they break off the theology programs from Denton or Winona and establish it at the Loretto). The other crazy daydream is that I win a really big powerball jackpot, buy the building, start my school, and operate my Evil Traditionalist empire from the Loretto campus, much to the chagrin of those pursuing "alternate lifestyles" or living the wine-and-cheese liberal life around town.

Updated February 17, 2006

The girl's school was founded 1901 at 36th and Broadway in a private home, but the sisters (who were more like the heroic Sisters of Loretto that assisted Abp. Lamy in founding Santa Fe than the Sisters of Loretto we have these days) didn't waste any time: they bought the land at 39th & Roanoke in 1902, laid the cornerstone in 1903, dedicated in 1904. The school thrived for a long time, but in 1964, the school moved way out to 12411 Wornall, and the grand original school was sold to Calvary Baptist College in 1966. In 1989, the facility was transformed into a retirement home of some sort, and the chapel is rented out for weddings.

Although our concern is with the building, we follow the school out south to note that boys were admitted beginning in 1970, and by 1984, the school had petered out. The board voted not to reopen for the fall of 1984.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon: The reason the Loretto Sisters went off the deep end can be summarized in four words: Sister Mary Luke Tobin. This woman, the only U.S. nun to attend Vatican II, is of the opinion that this distinction entitled her to undo the work of dedicated nuns over the course of a century and a half. Maybe a St. Teresa will arise among them, but my understanding is that this woman hounded all who disagreed with her out of the order. Still, prayer can accomplish much.

Anonymous said...

I attended the Loretto School after it was moved out to 12411 Wornall. I only went there for my 1st grade year (1977-1978), but loved it dearly. By the time I started 2nd grade in Shawnee Mission Schools, I had already completed the reading textbook they were using for 3RD grade and I was doing multiplication and long division. I remember being asked by my 2nd grade teacher to help teach "borrowing and carrying" in arithmetic problems to my classmates. I loved this school so much, but my brother was unable to function at the level of independence necessary to attend such a self-paced educational system, and our parents put us both in public school the following year. Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

Minor clarification. The organization that bought the 39th street building was Calvary Bible College.

Anonymous said...

i also went to this school from k thru 7th grade when it closed. my mother went to the original Loretto too. i still have nightmares about the burial ground/graveyard that was behind the "new Loretto" that they took us out to explore regularly. after it closed, many of the remaining teachers and sisters went to what i think they called the New School or something like that over in westport. we still have the old yearbooks, and my aunt who went there and graduated from there the year it closed, still meets up with old classmates. thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

sorry.. i just googled... the new school opened was named "Kansas City Academy" which from what i can tell, still has many of the same teachers as when i was there. eerie!

Bob Brayley said...

I attended De La Salle Military Academy, Class of 1957, and we used to date the girls of Loretto Academy, probably because none of us knew anything about dating in public High Schools! I'm only guessing, but I think most all the graduating classes of both High Schools were virgins! Probably not many people are left to remember now, but I'm the guy with the armful of books who backed into the panic bar latch on the East side of the school and managed to shatter the glass in the door, and have it shower down around me. Luckily, my leather motorcycle jacket took the hit and saved my body and my ducktails! Loretto was a girls-only school when I left KC in '59, but after returning from the Air Force in 1964, I seem to recall things had changed. The world is a different, but not necessarily better place. We were so young then....

cat2jenn said...

I attended Loretto Academy for high school and am a 1974 graduate. It was the most wonderful happy experience of my life. I was heartbroken to see the school close. Our class was the last class to graduate of all girls

Anonymous said...

I went to Loretto from 1975-1981. I loved the school and would be curious what happened to some of the children that went there. I too feel it positively affected me for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

I went to Loretto in Kindergarten and remember it well. I loved the pods. It was such a fun school. Does anyone remember the name of the crazy lady that lived in the woods, or is that only something the kindergarteners talked about.

Inky Neverwhere said...

I attended Loretto from North Pod through West Pod (K-3rd) in the late 70's. It was an amazing place. My favorite classes were Sally Tureman's (sp?) on cultures like Ancient China and the Plains Indians. I've created a Facebook group for students from the Wornall campus - please visit http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5697249628. Perhaps an event is on the horizon...

jandy-bee said...

My mom taught at Loretto in the '60's and one of her benefits was tuition-free acceptance of her three daughters. Loretto did not refer to grades but I was there for what would have been 1st - 3rd grade in '67 - '69. Loretto has always been for me the Ideal. It is what school SHOULD be. When my family moved to the Boston area in '69 I was in Lexington public schools for 4th grade and was light years ahead academically, but the mean-spiritedness of the teachers and school-mates in New England, after the nurturing environment of Loretto was just devastating. My mom stayed in touch with Sister Susan Swain for decades after we left, and some visited us in Lexington. What an interesting dedicated life-loving group of women.

Alice Recker said...

I was a boarder at Loretto Academy and in the last group that boarded there. That part of the school closed in 1955. In regard to the Lorettos going off the deep end...quite the contrary they are up and thriving quite well. A very diversified order of nuns still today. They are open to missionary issues in America and still the top leaders in the Catholic Church in America.

Brandon Williams said...

I graduated from Loretto in 1981. Would so love to hear from other during that time!

Anyone know about anyone from the class of 81?

Wishing you all the best and will certainly check on the facebook to read more.

Wishing everyone all the very best.
Brandon M. Chittenden-Williams
(Edinburgh, UK)

Anonymous said...

I was entering my junior year of high school when the school closed/moved. I was in North Pod for first grade in the early 70's and entered Loretto for high school around '82. It was the first and last time I ever jumped up in the morning unable to wait to get to school, the best grades ever. Wonderful. Although, I am not an educator, I always think about starting/helping a school in the spirit of Loretto. Some of my better friends during that time where Cole Martin, Jeremy Kohn, Ron Barret, John Kyger and Kaiser. Some of us went to Barstow after the Fall - Andrew Apple, Matt Swafford, David Baker.

Eric Moore - Beijing, PRC

Anonymous said...

I attended Loretto from 4th grade through my Freshman year...I think the school on 39th and Roanaoke closed in 1966

Anonymous said...

Indeed the old campus closed in 1966. I was in that class and I have a sister who graduated from the Wornall campus in 1971. We were taught to think for ourselves and to be leaders. I believe that is why Loretto was the first Kansas City school to integrate in the late 40's. Equality was demonstrated in our day to day existence, it did not have to be taught. Wish it had survived, my daughter would have benefited from the school as I did. I now live within a mile of the Wornall Campus which is now the Lutheran Academy but nothing can compare with the beauty of the old building on Roanoke and, of course, my wonderful memories of my 4 years at the "old" Loretto.
The Loretto nuns are still making an impact doing many things in the world and the motherhouse in Loretto, KY, cares for the many retired religious. The Roanoke campus is of the same architectural design as the motherhouse.

Bill Fletcher said...

Greetings--My fiance' graduated form Loretto in 1971. Her class ring was 'stolen' years ago. Does ANYBODY know someone that may still have theirs, or have a picture of one ??? I have contacted the maker, Josten's, and they only keep records/dies for no more than 4 years. I am wanting to have another ring made for her birthday--as a surprise. ANY hlep is GREATLY appreciated.
Bill@8165361390

Anonymous said...

I attended Calvary Bible College in thsi building from 1968-1972 and loved the elegant style.

Stephen J. Bushman said...

I attended the school from my freshman through senior years, and I was a member of Loretto Academy's last graduating class, in 1984, at the Wornall Campus. An amazing educational experience: no doors on the classrooms, no bells, we called our teachers by their first names, were integral as students in the interviewing and hiring of prospective teachers, and Freedom with Responsibility was the school motto. Though I sense in your post a bitterness about non-traditional education, I am thankful it was there for me, as my own experience at the all-boy Pembroke Country Day school for my jr. high years was particularly miserable. At Loretto, I felt respected and recognized as a member of the community. I fondly recall afternoons in the school orchestra, playing alongside students from across the lower, middle, and high schools, under the amazing and feared Sister Patrice Taheny. This spring, our class hosted a successful reunion, inviting any student, teacher, or staff who was involved with Loretto during the 1980s.

martha said...

Martha class of 79
Life is good. I worked for Sprint so I was in the old high school for training and work. It was very strange. I hope everyone is doing well and it would be great to see anyone that is still local.

Anonymous said...

I attended Loretto from the time I was in the 2nd grade through my Freshman. I was a boarding student for the first 2 years and they did away with boarding and I became a day student. Then I went to Westport HS until I graduated in 1958. I remember the huge staircase going up to the second floor, the wing where we all slept and the chapel where we attended mass every morning. Now I can look at the pictures and admire the beautiful building but when I was a little girl, it wasn't that pretty to me.
Wish there were more pictures of the interior in the early days.

Anonymous said...

My sister and I attended Loretta Academy in the 1950-54. My oldest sister was a sophomore at that time. We moved to Dallas for 2 years and she graduated from Ursuline Academy. We moved back to KCMO and my middle sister went to Loretta and I went to OLGC. It was a great time. We were ahead of our classes in Texas, especially in handwriting.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe I misspelled "Loretto". Old timer's disease.

Hoser said...

I've been following the "mudgeon for quite some time and come back often to see if any additional comments have filtered in on many of the parishes and schools that have gone by the wayside. My comments are primarily historical since I used to live immediately behind Loretto on 40th Street and my sister attended Loretto in the '50's. I, being a boy, had to go to Lillis High School. I remember going to Mass a number of times with my sister when my mom had to work on weekends and I was too small to go to Guardian Angels by myself. I also got to meet many of the sisters, one of which was my sister's favorite, Sister Scholastica. She allowed me to "pith" a frog in the biology class room when I was just a little one. I also took piano lessons from one of the nuns, that didn't last long. The neighborhood boys used to go play football in the "garden" located on the western part of the property. The nuns used to grow vegetables and grapes in the garden and we used to enjoy steeling a bunch of grapes to quench our thirst. I also remember the school having a "Hootenanny" when that was popular and it was held in the auditorium directly underneath the chapel.

Now 50 years later, I live in Arkansas and lo' and behold, we are working with the Sisters of Loretto to get information about a teacher come saint that opened the first Catholic School in Arkansas in 1829 in what is known as Plum Bayou outside of Pine Bluff. Dealing with them is somewhat tedious since they have a lot of questions. Mother Agnes Hart was the first american member (although she was born in Canada and moved to Kentucky in the 1810's) of the Sisters of Loretto and from what I read in the historical record was a saint in her time. We have one confirmed miracle by her intercession. Anyway, we are very concerned about the current sisters and their political proclivities.

Anonymous said...

We lived on 39th and played with the Harding kids, Delaney's and others. Played at Roanoke Park "down the hill". Simpler time!

Anonymous said...

I attended the "new" Loretto at 124th and Wornall, graduating in 1973. It was a wonderful place to learn, to dream and to experience. The Loretto sisters who taught there then were awesome! If the school had been open when it was time for my girls to go to high school, it would have been Loretto. Even though the sign outside the school says Metropolitan Lutheran/Calvary Lutheran schools, it'll always be Loretto!

Judy Steele said...

I was a boarding student at Loretto Academy (high school)from 1952 to 1955 when the boarding school closed, and I graduated from Loretto as a day student in 1956. I knew Alice Recker (who left a comment earlier) and was happy to see her again when some of us got together for our 50th reunion in 2006.

I have great respect for Mother Mary Luke Tobin, who died just a couple of years ago. She was a major figure in the Church and in the Loretto community; her contribution was huge, and I honor her memory.

Women Leather Jackets Online said...

love it
Leather Jacket

Women leather jackets said...

nice post keep posting

Anonymous said...

verizon has finally fixed my internet ,at lest for now.what a trip down memory lane.i am the big sister of anonymous. went to loretto until 1953. left the end of sophomore yr. graduated from ursuline in dallas in 1955. we lived on wet 38th street across 39th from loretto. dated (term used
loosely) one DON Roddy a delasalle
guy. best friend at that time was mary anne delaney.i now live in bryan tx and have since 1955.3 kids,5 grandkids,and g-ma to 3 great grandkids.life is good.

Men leather biker jackets said...

nice post love it

Leather Jackets

Anonymous said...

I WISH THERE WERE MORE COMMENTS POSTED. THEY ARE REALLY FUN TO READ.HAVE A NEW GREAT-GRANDBABY DUE IN NOVEMBER. THAT WILL BE 4. THEY ARE IN NORTH CAROLINA IN THE MARINES,SO I WON'T GET TO NSEE THEM ASS MUCH. MARY ANNE DELANEY HOLMAN GRADUATED IN 1953 ,ANYONE AROUND FROM THAT CLASS?mgbovicesbovices lartf

Susan said...

Hi Loretto Alums,

I am doing family research for a family friend and I am hoping someone can help me either by looking through yearbooks or because they remember the person I am looking for.
This girl's last name is LEWIS (don't know the first name but a relative thought it had 7 letters in it).
She started as a boarding school student in about 1945 (age 10) when her mother died of cancer. She had 3 much older siblings (youngest at least 10-11 yrs older than she was).
This girl probably graduated from Loretto in about 1953.
If anyone knows who this girl might be, I would appreciate the information. If anyone has a yearbook for any years between 1945-1953, I would appreciate it if you would send me the names of any girl with the last name of Lewis (age/grade doesn't matter, but include that also). If anyone knows where I can locate any of the old yearbooks, I would appreciate knowing that also.

Thanks for your help!!
Susan
celottofam5@gmail.com

Josiah Morgan said...

Thanks a lot for enjoying this beauty article with me. I am apreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great article. Good luck to the author! All the best!