|City/Town: • Kansas City|
|Location Class: • Church|
|Built: • 1888 | Abandoned: • ~2013|
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered|
|Photojournalist: • Regina Daniel|
M.E. Church South
The history of Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church dates back to the 1880s and starts with another church. William Barnett had returned to Wyandotte Station in 1869 where he would remain pastor for the next three years. During his pastorate, there was a brick church that was starting to be built at 7th and Minnesota Avenue. This would become known as M.E. Church South and after several years of struggles, the church was in good enough condition that it could be used but was never fully completed or dedicated. For several years it was rented by the United States district court for $150 a year. The 7th and Minnesota Ave church became a court of justice as well as a house of worship. Fast forward to 1884 during Rev. C. A. Shearman’s pastorate and the building had progressed no further than adding a retaining wall and new steps. Though the church had not been completed it now carried a street tax of $500, $187 was paid that year. The church was described as “64×80 feet, 20 ft walls, 35 ft ceiling in the center. An alcove was on one end for the pulpit and a tower at each corner of the other with a large vestibule between the towers. The first floor of one of the towers was used for the pastor’s study, the second for the coal bin. The building was of course never finished and eventually condemned, the doors tied together with huge iron rods for years before we ceased to use it. ”
In October 1886 Thomas J. Barker proposed to Bro. Comer to secure the site on the corner of State Avenue (Formerly Kansas Avenue) and Seventh Street for a new church. The proposal was accepted and Mr. Barker advanced the money for the lots. The unfinished M.E. South church on 7th and Minnesota was put up for sale and on March 30, 1887, and was sold for $25,000. Within a month work to tear down the building and salvage the materials of M.E. Church South was underway. Approximately 4,500 bricks, 1000 perch of stone and a large quantity of framing from the old church were salvaged to be used in what would become Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church.
Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church
The materials from the old M.E. Church South were used to build what would become known as the Southern Methodist Church and later the Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church. After just a few years of construction on June 17, 1888, the church was dedicated by Bishop Eugene Russell
Hendrix. The church has a Gothic style that is stapled into the KCK skyline with an auditorium, Sunday school room, daycare classroom, kitchen and basement. It had a beautiful pine oil hardwood finish throughout. Also located on the property was a seven-room parsonage. All together the lot was worth around $24,000. The congregation was around a hundred and five members with roughly a hundred and fifty children within the Sunday school at the end of 1889. And by 1892 the size of the congregation had more than doubled.
Due to a storm in 1945 the tall steeple that had become an icon of the city’s skyline was destroyed. The steeple was never replaced after and was left with a square gothic bell tower. Towards the end of its lifetime as a functioning church, not much can be found. Since the 1980s, the church housed a few African-American congregations including the Faith Cornerstone Church of the Full Gospel and the Ebenezer Church of God in Christ moving in in 1988. Rev. George Kemper Sr. was pastor of the Ebenezer Church of God in Christ 1988 to 2008. During his pastorate, the church had pumped nearly $50,000 into renovating the building. The Ebenezer Church sold the building to a Hispanic congregation in 2011 or 2012. The Hispanic Church had failed to file paperwork with the state as a nonprofit organization, which led to the accumulation of more than $30,000 in back taxes. The Hispanic Church shortly after fell into bankruptcy soon after and the building was listed in a tax sale. When no one purchased the building it became the property of the Wyandotte County LandBank.
The historic 1880s church has sat abandoned since around 2013 when it was claimed by the bank. News surrounding the property had been relatively quiet up until 2021. It was announced that the Kansas City Kansas Community College would be submitting applications for the church to be torn down to make way for a new $70 million dollar downtown campus project. This immediately angered history lovers and those on the Landmarks Commission claiming this church was the last example of High Victorian Gothic architecture here. In addition, it is one of the last remaining buildings from the expansion of Kansas City, Kansas, from 1886 to 1893. On November 1, 2021 the Unified Government Landmarks Commission voted to give a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church although that came with certain restrictions and steps to be taken before demolition could happen. KCKCC said restoring/renovating the old church did not align with their plans for the property. They did however state that they planned to use parts of the old church, including some foundation stones, six to eight pews, stained glass pieces, two trusses and 20 percent of the red bricks, in the construction of the new downtown campus design.
Article by AKS Photojournalist Emily Cowan