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.