Demolition began Saturday on the historic St. John the Divine Church building at 2511 Metropolitan Ave. in Kansas City, Kansas.
The building was severely damaged in a fire on Tuesday evening, March 3.
The building had not been used as a church for more than 25 years, and was owned by an organization for the arts. The building had been vacant for several years, a Fire Department spokesman said on Tuesday night. There is another Catholic church in operation at 2910 Strong Ave., about five blocks away.
The St. John the Divine building was a historic site, and according to a National Register application, it was built in 1887 as the Metropolitan Avenue United Methodist Church, then severely damaged in the 1903 flood. It was remodeled from 1909 to 1913, then sold to the Catholic Diocese in 1937. The church served many persons of Hispanic descent.
The building was the subject of controversy in 2013 when the local government issued an order to tear it down, and some community residents formed a group to save it. Some of the neighbors in 2013 said the building was structurally unsound. The building has not been a topic of controversy as a UG Commission meeting issue since that time.
Mayor David Alvey talked about the fire briefly during his community meeting Thursday night in Argentine (http://wyandottedaily.com/mayor-says-kck-is-at-a-crossroads/). He said he was sad about the fire, and that another way needed to be found to continue to sustain the Mexican heritage of the community. However, during his speech on Thursday the mayor did not specifically say that the building would be demolished. Sixth District Commissioner Angela Markley, Second District at large Commissioner Tom Burroughs and Third District Commissioner Christian Ramirez were in attendance at the meeting.
On Saturday morning, the UG posted a statement about the demolition on its Facebook page:
“Saying goodbye to a community treasure is never easy. Constructed in 1887, St. John the Divine in Kansas City, Kansas, played a significant role in the social and religious community of Argentine for more than 100 years.
“There were several additions and renovations over the years, but the really amazing thing is that it survived both the 1903 and 1951 floods,” said Amy Loch with the Unified Government’s Wyandotte County Museum.
“The iconic bell tower was erected during a major renovation between 1909 and 1913. In 1937, the church was acquired by the Catholic Diocese as a mission and used by the community for weddings, fiestas, quinceañeras, reflection, inspiration, and education until its closure in 1990.
“I am saddened by the loss of this religious and cultural treasure in the Argentine community. We had great hopes to make St. John the Divine a center to sustain the heritage of our Mexican-American community. We must now find a new avenue to accomplish that.” said Mayor-CEO David Alvey.
“This week’s fire struck at both the core of this beloved church and the Kansas City, Kansas community. Extensive damage caused by the fire has created a public safety risk, and the bell tower’s structural integrity has been lost.
“It is with heavy hearts that Unified Government staff have determined the bell tower must now come down.
“The contractor responsible for removing the bell tower has been instructed to save no less than 100 bricks, signage, and other significant pieces for preservation during its deconstruction. The Wyandotte County Museum Director has also toured the site and provided a list of items they believe the contractor should work to preserve.
“Deconstruction will occur on Saturday, March 7, 2020. The community is encouraged to keep a safe distance while trained personnel work.
“The Unified Government will provide an update on preserved items at a later time.” – From Unified Government social media post