Category Archives: Gothic Revival

Holy Name Catholic Church, East Central Kansas City

I have no idea why Holy Name Catholic Church is being torn down, except that shortsighted leaders see more value in the cut stone than in the stunning work of Gothic Revival structure they’re destroying.

Nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, it is now being torn down, one stone at a time, until what you see here is all that is left of the church.

You would think this is in some completely bombed out neighborhood, but in reality the neighboring blocks are relatively stable, with beautiful rehabs and new, seemingly expensive houses.

I guess they thought that an historic church was a detriment to their property values? More so than a vacant, weed-choked lot?

As I always say, just because you lack the imagination to see this church restored to its former glory instead of demolished, doesn’t mean you should get in the way of someone, maybe not even born yet, who has the vision and drive to find a new use for the church.

Read about the history behind the church in the 1960’s here.

The images remind me of pictures of post-war Germany after it had been bombed at the end of World War II.

See it from the air here, before most of the church was demolished.

In just a few short months, the entire church will be gone, and its striking presence will be gone as well.

As you can see, the stone is being carefully stacked and hauled off to another location. How stupid and short-sighted…

Vine Street Workhouse, Kansas City, Missouri

Did I discover an ancient fortress in the wilderness? Well, not exactly, as if you look closer, you see that this castle has cinder blocks in its windows and doors.

The Vine Street Workhouse was the old jail for the city of Kansas City, which I had the opportunity to visit over the Memorial Day weekend.

Located on the near east side of the city, it sits in a veritable forest of overgrown trees and underbrush.

The good news is that the jail has been been mothballed and the owner is actively seeking to find a buyer for the property.

It’s a stunning building, though slightly smaller in real life than I thought it was by looking at pictures on-line. A railroad runs right by the site, further confirming that this is no long lost medieval castle.

I was impressed by this gigantic weed; does anyone know what it is?

Rarely Seen Views, St. Liborius

Perhaps as enjoyable as viewing the interior of the church was the chance to step into the private, intimate spaces behind the scenes of the church.

For example, the angles created by the exterior of the apse as it butted up against the bridge to the rectory, or the steps that descend down into the basement.

The building’s stout walls will last for centuries, but the near future of the church will determine in what condition it will remain in the coming decades.

Below, the stained glass windows still line the hall of the bridge between the church and rectory, one of the most unique elements of this complex.

The rectory itself is a large building, with fascinating courses of glazed brick interspersed with the typical red brick.

The fuse box, no longer hooked up to electricity, is most likely part of the earliest wiring of the church.

A yellowed sign explains the operation of the system, though it is of no use now.

The parish hall, in the cellar, has been cut up into smaller rooms, but some of the original paint remains.

The grotto out back, facing away from the street, has miraculously avoided serious vandalism. This is the second historic church I have visited in North St. Louis in the last couple of months, and every time, I get a sad sense that I am witnessing the passing of an era. In fact, I get much of the same feeling viewing these churches as when I’m visiting ancient Roman ruins in Italy, even though those are obviously much older. What caused the Roman Catholic church to give up on this church? Was it a lack of will, or just a sad, realistic realization that there was no reason to keep the church open? Was it no different than when the Romans abandoned the Coliseum? Was there just simply no money or manpower left to keep it open any longer? Perhaps the most sad realization for me is that if even the beautiful St. Liborius can be abandoned and forgotten, then anywhere can, including the places I cherish.

The Fine Arts, St. Liborius

The most stunning aspect of the interior of St. Liborius are the massive painted lunettes above the arcades of the nave and transepts.

While most of the paintings were shrouded in darkness, I could pick out a couple of scenes at the beginning and end.

At the presumed beginning was the Nativity of Christ, and on the opposite place on the wall across the nave was the Resurrection, so I am going to guess that the rest of the paintings focus on the life of Christ.

I have no idea what the scene of a young Christ handing a cross to his parents is all about.

The stained glass is likewise beautiful, though some of the best pieces by Tiffany were sold decades ago and replaced with clear glass.

The high altar, described to me as originally being incredibly ornate and constructed of white marble, has been decimated. I don’t know exactly when or why, but the high altar was stripped of most of its marble. What remains gives you a bit of a clue about how it once appeared.

The transept altars didn’t fare much better, as this one attests, completely stripped of its marble veneer.

St. Liborius, A Desolate and Beautiful Interior

One of my favorite churches in North St. Louis, which I’ve looked at before here and here, is St. Liborius, anchoring the bend in North Market Street in the St. Louis Place neighborhood.

This weekend, the owners allowed visitors to come inside and view the interior, and brainstorm for possible uses for the massive, Gothic Revival church.

The church is a version of a German hallkirche, with relatively de-emphaisized transepts. All attention is therefore focused towards the high altar.

The massive compound Gothic columns hold up intricately detailed and well-preserved groin vaulting.

The choir loft is in bad condition, and the organ is largely gone.

The original gold leaf on the vaulting of the apse is well preserved and extremely beautiful.

Some of the original tracery and mosaic tile is preserved in patches around the church such as you can see here.

The complex, foliated designs on the capitals of the columns are also unique, and still possess their original paint.

Surrounding the front door are thick brick walls, supporting the tall spire above.

The owners are looking for help or a possible buyer for the church. If you have a good idea, and some money, you should help out.

Winkelmann Mansion, Almost Gone

I know that a lot of people love this house, and are very upset that it’s made it to this point where a strong storm might very well collapse the rest of the house. I count myself as one of them.

Once one of many mansions along St. Louis Avenue belonging to wealthy German-American industrialists, it had found new life as a funeral home, which in turn closed long ago.

I’ve been looking at and photographing the house for years, and it’s depressing to see it reach this point. See my earlier posts here and here.

I normally don’t condone graffiti, but in the case of this house,the simple word “legacy” on the plywood is particularly poignant.

McKee promised to save what he called “legacy properties” to go along with his new development, and this one was supposedly going to be one of these properties.

Judging from the neglect shown this building, and its savaging by brick thieves, there isn’t going to be much of a legacy left of this building in the coming years.

Christ Church Cathedral, Morning

I feel like Christ Church Cathedral sometimes is overlooked compared to the other cathedrals in town, but it is really a great English Gothic church.

On a recent morning, I was able to photograph it in the morning light, which is rare because I am seldom downtown this early in the day.

Not surprisingly for St. Louis, the church utilizes finely cut stone on the front and tower, and lesser grade stone on the side elevations.

I wanted to get in and photograph the famous altar wall, but unfortunately the church was closed.

In particular, I love how the light reflects off the Shell Building at this hour onto the rough stone of the cathedral.