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St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 3800 Troost PDF  | Print |

Kansas City Register of Historic Places

From Landmarks Commission City Staff Report Prepared by Dana Cloud, Preservation Planner

St. Marks's Lutheran Church The Lutheran congregation purchased the lot at the southwest corner of Troost Avenue and Manheim Road in 1914 and dedicated the $50,000 church, designed by the architecture firm of Owen and Payson, on January 16, 1916. Architects Owen and Payson’s original design included an attached Tudor style parsonage on the west side of the building that blended with the residential character of the turn-of-the-century neighborhood of Hyde Park just west of the church. A later addition in 1924 by architects Shepard and Wiser expanded the sanctuary and extended the parsonage, keeping with the original Tudor style design, westward to Harrison Boulevard.

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church is a two-story, limestone, Gothic Revival style structure with an attached three-story, half-timber and stucco, Tudor style parsonage. The church proper, designed in the Gothic Revival style, dominates the overall structure and maintains a significant presence along Troost Avenue. The half-timber, Tudor style parsonage, on the other hand, blends with the residential character of the Hyde Park neighborhood to the west.

Quarry-faced limestone, laid in a random bond, defines the church proper and rusticated foundation that extends around the perimeter of the building. Dressed limestone highlights the decorative features of the building exterior such as the windowsills, parapet and cladding around the top portion of the towers. Stucco and false half-timber cladding define the Tudor style parsonage.

The church features a gabled roof, clad in slate shingles, that runs east and west parallel with the narthex of the sanctuary. The two corner towers on the primary façade extend above the gabled roof and terminate with flat roofs. The center bays of the north and south walls of the sanctuary project to form side gables. The gabled roof of the rear addition is punctuated with a series of pent roofs that transmit light into the auditorium on the third floor. Projecting two-story gabled roofs define the secondary entrances on the north and west facades.

The primary façade of the church faces east onto Troost Avenue and features a centrally placed main entrance that is surrounded by a shield motif and accessed via a grand set of stairs from Troost. The primary façade also features a crenellated projection along the first floor, asymmetrical corner towers (with a belfry located in the north tower) and a stepped parapet with a pointed arch and carved limestone cross. A large stained-glass window, removed by the parish from the church’s predecessor at 14th and Cherry Streets, adorns the primary façade and is the main feature of the sanctuary’s balcony.

The intent of architects Shepard and Wiser’s design for the 1924 expansion of the church was to preserve the residential nature of the Hyde Park neighborhood to the west. Therefore, the restrained character of the west (rear) façade is in sharp contrast to the imposing Gothic Revival style of the east façade, which fronts the commercial street of Troost Avenue.

Ten stained-glass windows with limestone tracery and arched heads run along the north and south facades (five windows each façade) of the church proper (see attachments for window descriptions). A series of multi-paned, double-hung windows make up the north, west and south façade fenestration of the Tudor style parsonage.

The Gothic Revival style influences that characterize St. Mark’s Lutheran Church are located for the most part on the primary façade that faces Troost Avenue. Such Gothic Revival inspired details include the shield motif that surrounds the main entrance, the crenellated projection above the first floor, asymmetrical corner towers, and the large pointed-arch, stained-glass window. Other Gothic Revival style influences on the exterior include the use of quarry-faced limestone and projecting wall buttresses. The church also reflects the Gothic Revival style on the interior of the sanctuary with its ribbed, vaulted ceiling and ribbed detailing on the west wall of the altar. The Gothic Revival style was an extremely popular style for church designs after 1840 and well into the 20th century. Church design in Kansas City during this period was no exception to the rule, as Gothic Revival style churches comprise a significant number of religious properties in Kansas City.

The interior space of the church is divided into two zones: the church proper and the auxiliary spaces of the rear addition. The church proper houses the main sanctuary and is located on the east side of the building along Troost Avenue. The nave and narthex of the sanctuary run east and west, with the chancel and altar located to the west and the sanctuary entrance and balcony to the east. A secondary entrance on the north façade accesses the Tudor style parsonage, which houses several offices, the chapel, the reverend’s office and an auditorium on the third floor.

HISTORY:

Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church is the original Lutheran congregation of Kansas City, Missouri. Organized April 4, 1867, by Reverend Morris Officer, secretary of the Home Mission Society of the General Synod, the original congregation consisted of thirteen members who established themselves as the First English Lutheran Church. After Reverend Officer secured $600 for missionary support in Kansas City the General Synod sent Reverend A.W. Wagenhals, a resident of New York City and graduate of the Hamma Divinity School, to lead Kansas City’s first Lutheran mission church.

Two separate buildings housed worship services for the First English Lutheran Church prior to the construction of the churches at 14th and Cherry Streets and 3800 Troost Avenue. The mission first worshipped in a temporary structure located at Delaware near Ninth Street. Constructed in one day by members and volunteers, it consisted of a wood-frame and clad structure with a sod floor. The congregation designated the building as the “Tabernacle” and utilized it for services until the erection of a permanent brick structure designed in the Gothic Revival style at 1020 Baltimore Avenue. Described in Detherage’s, Early History of Greater Kansas City, as perhaps the costliest church in Kansas City during its period, the church seated two hundred persons at a cost of $8,000. The congregation, the majority of whom were English-speaking Lutherans from the Pennsylvania area, held its first service in the new church on March 29, 1868, nearly a year after the congregation’s formation.

The First English Lutheran Church enjoyed slow yet steady progress during its first decade of community service. Reverend A.W. Wagenhals saw the erection of the new church at 1020 Baltimore Avenue and helped establish a Sunday school, which became a permanent component of the church. Reverend Wagenhals was also instrumental in organizing the Kansas Synod, which later became part of the all-encompassing Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Central States. However, with the church’s offerings totaling a meager $114.00 between May 1868 and April 1869 it became necessary for the Pennsylvania Synod to support the church financially. This financial support covered Reverend Wagenhal’s salary and part of the construction cost of the 1020 Baltimore Avenue church. Eventually the church became self-sufficient under the leadership of Reverend S.S. Waltz, who served as pastor between 1879 and 1883.

Perhaps the era of greatest prosperity for the First English Lutheran Church was between 1884 and 1899 during the tenure of Reverend J.M. Cromer, a graduate of the Wittenburg theological seminary in Springfield, Ohio. Between 1884 and 1893 the congregation grew in size from forty to nearly two-hundred-and-fifty members and established a successful Sunday school and “young people’s society.” In 1888 the congregation sold the 1020 Baltimore Avenue church and purchased property at 14th and Cherry Streets for the construction of a larger church. For five years the congregation held services in the finished basement while they raised funds to complete the new church.

On April 9, 1893, the congregation celebrated the opening of their new church, a Gothic Revival style structure costing $55,000 and seating 550 persons. During the three years following the erection of the new church the congregation nearly doubled in size. Unfortunately, however, Reverend Cromer resigned in 1899 and membership attendance and the church’s financial stability subsequently declined. Approximately fifty members left the First English Lutheran Church to form the Grace Church, which Reverend Cromer led.

The first decade of the Twentieth Century was a period of regaining membership confidence after Cromer’s departure in 1899. Three men took on this challenge as pastor of the First English Lutheran Church between 1900 and 1909: Reverend Holmes Dysinger (1900-02), Reverend John A.M. Zieger (1902-06) and Reverend J.C. Schindel (1907-09). As Reverend Ziegler took over as pastor in 1902 he foresaw the daunting task of removing the church’s debt of $22,570. He was perhaps the most influential pastor during this period as he successfully removed the debt, which propelled the church into a new Renaissance era.

Dr. Andreas Bard, the longest presiding pastor of First English Lutheran Church, became pastor in 1910 and brought the church through its next period of growth. The first significant change included the removal of the church from its roots in downtown Kansas City to the growing residential area south of 31st Street known as Hyde Park. The character of the neighborhood surrounding 14th and Cherry Streets had drastically changed since the members erected the brick, Gothic Revival style church in 1893. As a result, the congregation sold the church at 14th and Cherry Streets to the German American Alliance of Kansas City on July 1, 1914 and purchased the land at the current site of 3800 Troost Avenue. The congregation dedicated the new limestone, Gothic Revival style church and attached Tudor style parsonage, designed by the architecture firm of Owen and Payson, on January 16, 1916.

Dr. Bard’s significance in the history of the First English Lutheran Church extends far beyond his influence in moving the congregation to Kansas City’s growing Hyde Park neighborhood. His greatest achievement was perhaps the unprecedented growth of the church’s membership during his tenure from approximately two hundred members to nearly one thousand members. He was also instrumental in the congregation’s decision to change its name from First English Lutheran Church to Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church (November 10, 1920). Dr. Bard became one of the most recognized pastors in the area, not only for his sermons but also for his writings, which expressed his interests in philosophy, theology, science and drama. After forty years of service Dr. Bard retired in 1950.

In order to accommodate the rapidly increasing membership due to Dr. Bard’s popularity, the congregation made several alterations to the church. In 1922 the church erected the wood-frame and stucco balcony along the east wall of the sanctuary at a cost of $3,000. In May of 1924 the congregation purchased the lot west of the church and an adjacent home for $6,500 and $13,500, respectively, for the expansion of the church, which began in September of 1924. The congregation dedicated the new addition, designed by the architecture firm of Shepard and Wiser at a cost of $250,000, on November 22, 1925.

Typical of growth patterns in any major urban center, Kansas City continued to expand southward, forever changing the social and economic characteristics of the neighborhood surrounding Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church. While many of its members moved on to join congregations further south, Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church remained. As a result, Saint Mark’s expanded its sermons to adapt to and attract the shifting population around it. In 1969 it began its transformation by opening new community outreach programs such as the Community Day Care Center, which served neighborhood children between the ages of three and six. Although this program has since dissolved other community outreach programs developed to promote community involvement. One such successful program is the current “Citi Arts” program, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the involvement of neighborhood children in community arts. After Dr. Bard retired in 1950, thirteen pastors served Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church, including the influential Reverend Allen who served between 1951 and 1970. The current congregation consists of approximately sixty-eight members.