After destructive fire, officials say historic KCK church bell tower had to come down

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — An historic church that has stood in Kansas City, Kansas’ Argentine neighborhood for 133 years sustained heavy damage last Tuesday following a massive fire.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/KCK said extensive damage to St. John the Devine Catholic Church, caused by the fire, has created a public safety risk and the bell tower’s structure integrity had been lost and that it must come down.

“Saying goodbye to a community treasure is never easy,” the UG posted on their Facebook page.
The UG said the church on Metropolitan Avenue 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.
Deconstruction took place Saturday. The UG said the contractor responsible for removing the bell tower had been instructed to save no less than 100 bricks, signage and other significant pieces for preservation.

The director of the Wyandotte County Museum in Bonner Springs toured the site and provided a list of items they believe should be preserved. The UG said they would provide an update on the preserved items at a later date.

The church, built in 1887, was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a list of places worthy of preservation authorized by the federal government, in 2013.

According to the register’s website, the church has “served as the centerpiece of religious life for the Mexican American Catholic community of the Argentine for at least 50 years.” Surviving several major floods, the building “was maintained and adorned by its parishioners, reflecting vernacular Mexican and Spanish art and culture.”

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 Wyandotte County Mayor David Alvey.

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