St. Mary's Episcopal Church
St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, is one of the oldest churches of the city and one of few churches remaining in the Central Business District. The original parish church, founded in 1857, was known as St. Luke's, before the name was changed to St. Mary's in 1879. Constructed in 1887/88, the current church is the only known work in Kansas City by the prominent New Jersey architect William Halsey Wood. The building is a representative early example of the architectural style known as Late Gothic Revival. The church's website describes it as "a progressive community that is not limited to one race, socio-economic level, age, or orientation. Eclectic and always inclusive, members of our parish share a love of our Anglo-Catholic heritage and a dedication to social justice." It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Backstory and Context
The architect was William Halsey Wood of Newark, NJ. Noted for the many churches he designed, mostly in New Jersey and New York, his competition design for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC was highly praised, though not ultimately chosen. The architectural designs he did carry out included the Carnegie Library in Braddock, PA, and the Church of the Redeemer and All Angels Church, both in New York. Wood's professional focus on houses of worship reflected his strong religious faith, and for years he was choirmaster at Newark's House of Prayer.
St. Mary's serene design and simple silhouette distinguishes it from earlier Gothic revival styles. English motifs, such as lancet windows, are integrated into the overall design. The foundations are of squared limestone. The church and parish hall are both of rectangular structure, built of red brick laid in red mortar with sandstone sills and decorative elements. The west facade, facing Holmes Street, is flanked on either side by short, polygonal towers, topped with turret roofs. Each tower contains an entrance door set within an arch. Above the doors are narrow, arched windows. The north facade, facing Thirteenth Street, is distinguished by a large tower positioned in the center of the facade. The tower is twenty-four feet square and 140 feet high and contains an organ chamber, a bellringer's loft and a bell chamber.
The interior of the church consists of a wide nave with flanking side aisles and chapels. The most distinctive feature of the church are the thirty-one impressive stained and painted glass windows. Colored cathedral glass was originally used for the windows, but this was replaced as new windows were dedicated as memorials and thanksgiving windows. Most of the windows are dated: the windows depicting the Resurrection and Ascension are from 1904 and were created by a local firm, the Campbell Paint and Glass Company. A church member, Thomas Boyer Pain, designed the windows; he was an executive and designer for the firm for over forty years.
The church has its own ghost story. The main altar, located one bay west of the east gable wall, is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Henry D. Jardine, who was rector of St. Mary's from 1879 to 1886. (The altar was constructed using a process that infuses color through the thickness of marble by using heat, called the Endolithic Process.) The Rev. Jardine was responsible for increasing parish membership and creating a hospital and schools. But he was also dogged by scandal, including alleged drug use, immoral behavior with young parish women, misuse of funds and (perhaps worst of all in the eyes of some) emphasizing Roman Catholic practices. He lost a lawsuit against a local paper that had slandered him. He then journeyed to St. Louis, where his priesthood was revoked, though he contested this decision. He was found dead in 1886, before the current church opened, with a crucifix and a rag soaked in chloroform in his hand.
Said Todd Chenault, the church's unofficial historian, ""Have I heard things? Yes, plenty of times. Have I seen any ghosts? No, never."
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