Saturday, November 19, 2005

St. Francis Seraph, Kansas City, Missouri

Tucked into the North Bottoms area (off Front Street) in Kansas City, Missouri, in the midst of an industrial area, between two railyards, is a poor, dilapidated residential neighborhood. A kind reader who knows a thing or two about old Kansas City churches suggested I go there to find St. Dominic's. What I found was the the Damascus Road Apostolic Church, formerly St. Francis Seraph. Perhaps it was retitled St. Dominic's at some point. The whole parish plant is a mess. The school is a junkyard, the Rectory has broken windows and an open door. The church has several panels broken out of the stained glass. The remnants of a road grader sit alongside the south transcept.

A woman down the street watched me carefully as I took pictures, so I drove down to visit with her and assure her there was no need to call the police; I was just engaged in a morbid but harmless hobby of mine. I'm glad I did; she had something to say about the place. She couldn't tell me exactly when the church closed, but she said her neighbor knew there was a big auction and everything in the church was sold at one time. She said they had a lot vagrants living in the rectory and at one time a lot of people doing drugs there. The old school building (apparently of late 1940s/early 1950s architecture) is now a junkyard, complete with pitbull (look carefully and you can see him barking at me. She indicated that Queen of Peace was the parish she goes to know (she didn't seem like the type to know whether that was the actual canonical parish for this area now, so I didn't ask). She also tipped me off to Holy Trinity, in the Lykins neighborhood, which I'll post next.

Does anybody have any history on this? When did it close? Why (besides the obvious)? What about the school? What was the interior like?

UPDATE
FEBRUARY 14, 2006

From This Far by Faith. St. Francis Seraph was founded in 1977 by Bishop Hogan, who appointed Fr. William McCormick as Pastor. A small frame church was built in 1887. The parish was to be "mixed," i.e., all nationalities within the geographic boundaries were expected to attend it. The gospel was reread in English, German, Flemish and French, and preaching was in English and German, with French and Flemish on special occastions. A school and a recotry were built by 1897. In 1903, a flood severely damaged the entire parish plant, but they rebuilt. In 1920, land was purchased for a new church to be built in a Lombardy Romanesque style, the one shown above, and the cornerstone was laid in 1924. The parish was always very poor. The school building shown above was built in 1941 at a cost of $37,779, and it was closed in 1962, when the kiddos were packed off to Assumption school. In 1970, the building was sold for $65,000.

Following the 1951 floods, most of the area served by the parish was rezoned and redeveloped as industrial. The parish, which had been served by diocesan priests, and then Franciscans, was given to the care of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Don't know anything about 'em. By 1984, there were only 86 Catholics living in 56 households within the parish boundaries.

Effective 1991, St. Francis Seraph was suppressed, along with St. John the Baptist and Assumption, and the three parishes formed St. Anthony of Padua at the Assumption facilities at Benton Blvd and Lexington. The church and rectory were sold to Phoenix Office Supply for $40,000.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the East Bottoms and attended St. Francis Seraph church and 1 year at the school. The school had a large hardwood floor gym and a stage. The school closed in 1962 due to the fact there were not enough students to keep it going. There was a beautiful stairway to the 2nd floor. There was a staue of I belive St. Francis when you first walked in.

Anonymous said...

Years ago the East Bottoms had several stores and services. There was Monteil's grocery store, Gilmore's drug store, Louie the barber, a fire station, post office, 2 public schools and St. Francis school. There were several nationalties that blended to make this a great community.

Brad said...

I was driving around this area the other day and noticed this gorgeous old church (St. Francis Seraph) I didn't know that was the name at the time but randomly found it on the KC Library website. Noticed the front doorway is completely open so anyone can walk in. Down the block is quite a bit of gang graffiti. Didn't hang out long but noticed that it said "Mexican Kingz." Would LOVE to check out the inside, even if gutted, but no way in that area with the graffiti I read. Thanks for the blog about it.

Rita Bolsenga Arreguin said...

My husband and I were married at St Francis Seraph in 1977 and attended many masses there...It was a very beautiful church during that time...not a full house but we enjoyed our time there...Father Jim Flanagan was our priest at one time but Father Thomas Whelan married us in April of 1977...

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the East Bottoms. My brother, sister and I attended St. Francis Seraph gradeschool and attended St. Francis Seraph church. The area was nice years ago. A small community of Belgians and some Italians had settled in this area during immigration. There was a grocery store, barber, drug store and many nice homes in the area---
Teresa Parretta

Anonymous said...

I am going to tag this blog to a group that ALL of us grew up in the East Bottoms. I remember the church so well. Lots of wonderful memories. The church was a big part of our lives. The East Bottoms was a FAMILY. Soon you will be getting a lot of comments! I know that in the basement of the church we had everything from youth group meetings to funeral dinners, to birthday parties and everything in between. My last visit to the church was for my Aunt Nean Reuscher and my dad Charles McGuire's birthday party. It was the last big get together for our family and it was a day I will never forget. There are a lot of memories of things at St. Francis I will never forget.

Deacon Danny Esteban said...

The last Mass there was when we baptized my niece there in July I think in 1991. Last I heard from Deacon Fred Santillan, Fr. Flanagan was still alive and living in Corpus Christi. It is really sad to see it now to how it was. I grew up in the bottoms and still live in Northeast.

Kathleen Cox said...

I grew up in the East Bottoms and for 12 years this was the only church I knew. My brother's Bill and Bruce Yates along with my sister Anita attended a few years of the school. It was closed before I was old enough so I along with my sister Patty went to Martin Elem. We were all confirmed here. The priest I remember the most was Father Bead he took all the kids fishing one summer and I loved it. I caught a fish!! And for a city girl that was pretty awesome. I also remember a very stern Priest Father John big man with a crew cut hairstyle. They were all pretty kind they would bring a basket of food with large loaves of bread to my grandmothers house only coming to the back door so neighbors would not see. Then the priest would sit and sip sherry or Mogan David with my grandmother. I loved the statue of St Francis in front of the rectory. I remember after the school was closed we would play basketball in the gym until it mainly became a shelter for homeless men. Then we were told it wasn't safe. Girl scouts and other activities were held in the basement of the church. This church will always hold a very special place in my heart. So sorry to hear of it's deterioration. I say on another comment about a group or board of East Bottoms residents. I would love to be a part of that group. You can move the gal all over the country but you can't take the bottoms out of her. lol Kathleen Janet Marie Yates (Cox)

Susan Zook said...

Fr. James Flanagan, SOLT who is the Founder of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and was the pastor of St. Francis Seraph during the mid 60s to the late 80s is still alive and active in spreading the good news and ministering throughout the US. He now lives in New Mexico with the Mission there. If you are interested in contacting him, please email me at solt.archives.2012@gmail.com. I would be happy to pass along your message.

Diamond Madrid said...

I'm only 20 and lived in the east bottoms since my third grade year. This church had always made me curious. Because as a child my family would always sneak in and look around. At that time the school had been half way torn down and the basement was a sand pit. A man had old cars stored in it and it had become a junk yard but id never seen who owned it. The house in the middle has blood on the walls and that was always fascinating. It was highly unstable. The news paper I picked up out of it was 1960's and I took a picture off the old bathroom wall. I still have that. They have since torn both if these completely down. The church still has a ton of very old stuff in the basement. Like dolls and carriages pews and dishes. The church is completely boarded up now. I wish that someone has the heart to reopen it it needs a while lot of work. But 90% of the population down there I'd now on drugs and I think it would help. But I loved reading bout this. Ive always wanted to know what the east bottoms were before they were abandoned and only business. If anyone has pictures from then please email me. Vladimir.trueblood@gmail.com

Vicki Levy said...

I first saw the vacant church,rectory and school in 2003 or 04 while checking out property scheduled to be
sold for back taxes.Several years later I was doing some work close by and noticed the church was
opened and went inside. The stained glass was broken and the inside was empty.

All but the church are gone. The roof is gone in places, big holes are in the floor and
dangerous building - Do Not Enter- is posted on the outside. In a very short time it will only
be a memory. I did take pictures of some of the damage.