In exploring Kansas City architecture as a new transplant, you’ll find that there is a wide variety from Queen Anne to Neoclassical and Modern to Prairie styles. The Gothic and English revival buildings and stained-glass windows were especially fascinating to someone used to West Texas churches made of wood, bricks, and sometimes adobe.
Kansas City can trace its beginnings back to 1821 when Francois Chouteau established a trading post on the waterway. The town of Westport, which soon became one of Kansas City’s neighborhoods, was established in 1833 as a port along the Santa Fe Trail. Some of the first churches in the area were Westport United Methodist Church and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in 1835 and Westport Presbyterian Church in 1836. To put that in perspective, Kansas City wasn’t even incorporated as a town in June 1850 and as a city in March 1853.
I am sure that I did not find all of the oldest churches. Many have since shut down, been rebranded, or burned down in a fire never to return. Sometimes you must also track down the original name of a church to discover its history. For example, one old congregation (say the church formed in 1860) may now be operating in a fancy new building in one part of town while their old Gothic Church sits downtown under a completely new name.
Here are 14 churches in Kansas City that range from English to Gothic Revival architecture. [I cheated a little because two are in Kansas City, Kansas. However, they were constructed in the same period so it counts].
Church formed: 1868
Building structure: 1875
While Oratory of Old St. Patrick doesn’t have the oldest congregation, it does have the oldest remaining structure in Kansas City, Missouri.
The St. Patrick Parish was established in 1868. After issues finding a proper location to build a new church, the present site land was purchased in 1875 and ground broke in May 1875. The first mass held at the church was on Christmas 1875; however, it was not finished until 1881. The stained-glass windows in the nave were installed in 1908. Here is a great website to read a long and detailed history of the building.
Church founded: Diocese formed in Kansas City in 1835.
Building structure: 1882-1883
A log cabin church was built at the corner of 11th and Broadway in 1835 by French Missionary Father Benedict Roux and named St. John Francis Regis. Over time, the population grew, and a new diocese was formed in Kansas City in 1880 and the cornerstone of the current church was laid in 1882. The cathedral is built on the highest ground in the city, at 250 feet above street level, and the gold leaf cupola can be seen throughout downtown. The stain glass windows in the cathedral were crafted and installed in 1912.
Church formed: 1857
Building structure: 1887
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church began in 1857 when Kansas City was still an outpost on the frontier. The church was originally founded as St. Luke’s. The first church was built at 8th and Walnut in Kansas City in 1867. It was changed to St. Mary’s in the 1870s. The current church at 13th and Holes was completed in 1887. The style of the building is Gothic Revival.
500 W 40th St, Kansas City, MO 64111
(Formerly Westport United Methodist Church)
Church formed: 1836
Building structure: built off old structure (1853) starting in 1896
One of the first Protestant churches organized in the Kansas City area, the Westport United Methodist Church was organized 1836. In 1867, the Warfield Chapel was built to serve the growing congregation. The stone building that you see today was added to the building around 1894 or 1896 (sources vary). The church changed its name in 2005 to Revolution United Methodist Church.
You have the Revolution Church, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, and the Broadway Church (I think it’s still called that?) all within the same city block so parking is very limited. However, if you go around 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, you can usually find free street parking and you can easily visit all three churches.
Church formed: 1835
Building structure: built in 1904 or 1906 (reconstruction in 2011)
This church has a combination of the early 1900s and modern architecture. Westport Presbyterian Church was first organized as Westport Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1835. A fire destroyed the 1896 brick building at the current site in 1903. Most of the present stone building was dedicated in 1904 including the sanctuary, chapel, and rooms upstairs. A fire destroyed the interior of the church in December 2011 and it was rebuilt. The exterior limestone shell survived the fire and was integrated with the rebuilt structure. Thus, the old stone and the modern “storefront” structure in the front of the building.
Church formed: 1900
Building structure: 1904
I discovered St. John the Baptist while visiting the Strawberry Hill Museum in Kansas City, Kansas. The museum and cultural center were formed in 1988 in an old Croatian neighborhood that celebrates the nationalities of the area. The original Victorian building was built in 1887 in the Queen Anne style and an orphanage operated in connection with St. John the Baptist Catholic Church next door was opened in 1919. St. John the Baptist is an ethnic Croatian parish established in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood in 1900. The cornerstone of the building was laid in 1904. Sitting on top of a large hill, both the museum and church offer spectacular views of downtown Kansas City, MO.
Church formed: 1866
Building structure: built in 1906
Next to the Westport United Methodist Church (now Revolution Church) is the Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church. The parish began back in 1866 in the historic Westbrook area when a log cabin church was built on the property. As the neighborhood and city of Kansas City grew, so did the need for a larger church, so the parish began building the church in 1906. The church has multiple stain-glass windows on the sides of the church that are stunning.
Church founded: 1886
Building structure: built 1904 to 1906
I am not able to find too much about this old church that is in downtown Kansas City, KS. The church building itself was founded as part of the St. Anthony Parish; it is an ethnic German parish but has included Irish and Hispanic cultures throughout the years. That’s one thing I learned while visiting the Strawberry Hill Museum is how this area was divided into ethnic enclaves such as German, Irish, Slavic, Russian, and so forth. The cornerstone was laid in July 1904 and the building itself was dedicated in 1906. The architectural style is Richardsonian Romanesque/Romanesque Revival.
Church formed: Calvary Baptist was 1833; the current congregation of Redeemer Fellowship was 2008
Building structure: built 1910 (estimate)
This building was formerly occupied by the First Calvary Baptist Church, which celebrated over 175 years in 2008 (1833?). The Calvary Baptist Church originated from the First Baptist Church of Kansas City. The current congregation is Redeemer Fellowship, which opened in June 2008. I could not find much history about the old building itself. However, it is a stunning work of architecture that is worth a trip.
Church formed: 1865
Building structure: built 1912
Grand Avenue Temple was founded in 1865. The growing congregation began building a new church in 1909 with the current structure completed in 1912. The main façade of the temple faces north; the design is influenced by the Erechtheion Template in Athens. The style of the building is Greek Revival.
Church formed: 1885
Building structure: built 1916 or 1917
Originally called Howard Methodist Episcopal Church, the church was originally formed in 1885 and had its first meetings in Kansas City at the corner of Springfield (31st Ave) and Holmes (1887). The current site was purchased in 1916. When I typed in Broadway Church, Google took me to this location, which is understandable considering the sign outside. However, the Trinity United Methodist Church has its own website, branding, and a sign that said Trinity United Methodist Church. So, it may have been an upcoming event tie-in or the congregation itself moved to this location and they merged.
Church formed: 1920
Building structure: built 1921 to 1926
The Country Club Christian Church was founded in 1920 in the Country Club District of Kansas City. Services were initially held in the Community Hall at Brookside. As the congregation grew, the land at 61st and Ward Parkway was purchased on April 18, 1921, and the first building unit built is now the educational section of the building. The present sanctuary building was started in 1923 and dedicated in early 1926. The architecture style is English Gothic.
Church formed: 1887
Building structure: built 1921 to 1922
St. Vincent de Paul Church is a large stone church near the corner of 31st and the Paseo on Flora Avenue. An initial wooden church was built at 1715 Oak Street by the Vincentians in 1887. The parish moved to a brick church at the northeast corner of 31st and Flora in 1887. The new stone, the Gothic parish church was designed in 1921. The church was closed by the diocese in 1975. In 1980, it was purchased by the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX).
Broadway Church (now Reach Church)
Church formed: 1872
Building structure: built 1923
The Broadway Church at the corner of 39th and Broadway was completed and dedicated in December 1923. Its former name was First Swedish Baptist Church. The name changed in 1924 to Broadway Baptist. I am not sure when the church was sold, but it is currently occupied by Reach Church (reachkc.org). However, some of the old wording on the doors still say Broadway Baptist and you can see signs of the old church.
Driver Alert. If you search for the church, Google Maps will give you an address of 620 E. Amour Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64109. This takes you to the old Trinity Methodist Church. To be fair, the Trinity church has a sign for the Broadway Church in addition to the Trinity sign. I am not sure if that is where the old congregation moved to. I only found this structure by luck since it is near the Westport Presbyterian and Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Where to find them? (Map)
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