Renovation underway for historic vacant church

linwood-preb-1By Joe Lambe

Scaffolding shines in the sun around a faded Gothic church tower that long marked urban decline.

In spring, the historic 1923 church on Linwood, vacant since the 70s, will reopen as offices and neighborhood services.

linwood-pres-2The $10 million renovation of the former Linwood Presbyterian Church, 1801 E. Linwood Blvd., and the nearby Harold Thomas Center, 3210 Michigan Ave., is finally underway.

It took almost two decades but a non-profit development group is creating what it calls “a  caring campus.”

The financing involved federal and state tax credits and a maze of complexities, said Jim Scott of Scott Associates, an architectural and development consultant group involved in the project.

“It’s a great story, it really is,” he said, “but it’s not a simple story.”

The building has been vacant since 1975, was sold by the church in 1979 and repurchased by it in 1995. The church never sold the center built in 1931 and it has stayed open as offices.

The area west of the church is vacant between it and another church tower that stands strangely alone. A church sanctuary built in 1904 connected to the tower but crumbled years ago and was demolished .

The Harold Thomas Center was originally the Home for Convalescent Employed Women. Churches used to provide many such social services in years before social security and other programs existed.

State historic preservation officials have found both buildings eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

They link them to the history of the city and church and to changing trends in helping the poor, disadvantaged or elderly.

The new use will continue helping and stand as a symbol of urban rebirth, Scott said. “When it was vacant, it was a symbol of disinvestment.”

The renovated buildings will provide offices and working space for non-profits like ReDiscover and the Front Porch Alliance.

Photo courtesy Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Photo courtesy Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections.

ReDiscover, which provides mental health and substance abuse treatment, will have operations in the church that include a day care.

Scott said the developers hope to start working next fall on financing new senior citizen apartments on the surrounding land that was once home to a Presbyterian complex dating to the 1890s.

By the 1920s, the Presbyterian congregation was growing so much that they built the new church designed by the Kansas City architecture firm of Greenebaum, Hardy and Schumacher.

 More on its history 

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