The Ruins of Kansas City Workhouse Castle

Kansas City Workhouse Castle ABANDONED SPACES

The Kansas City Workhouse Castle is an abandoned and historical medieval-styled site located at 2001 Vine Street in Missouri. The towered stone fortress was originally built in 1897 and was inaugurated as the “workhouse castle” with dedicated jail to incarcerate petty criminals and vagrants. Designed by Kansas City architects A. Wallace Love and James Oliver Hog, the Romanesque revival style was in vogue at the time, inspiring this peculiar castle design for the project.

The castle was built with the goal of reducing overcrowding and fire hazards in city prisons, and at the time of its building, the castle could house 112 men and 48 women. By 1897, that number had risen to 200 prisoners.

Kansas City Workhouse Castle
Kansas City Workhouse Castle
Kansas City Workhouse Castle

From 1872 until 1924 the city workhouse put its inmates to work for the local public works, the very first of which being the creation of the jail itself which was built by the first prisoners who mined the limestone building blocks right out of the ground.

The management and practices at the Kansas City Workhouse Castle were usually under severe criticism. A 1909 report of the Board of Pardons and Paroles listed grievances to Mayor T. C. Crittenden, Jr. of overcrowding, frequent escapes, unclean bedding vermin, lack of medical attention, poor food, habitual gambling, prisoners kept in cells in idleness, and intoxicating liquors and drugs available to prisoners during confinement. After the publication of the report the superintendent and most of the staff resigned or were fired.

Kansas City Workhouse Castle

However, the jail closed in 1924, and it was later used for many purposes, including everything from a city storage facility, a Marine training camp and a dog euthanization center, even as an event space for weddings and concerts. It was fully abandoned in 1972. After that, it fell into ruin. The roof and interior floors collapsed. Trash and vegetation invaded every space, and street art covered the walls.

The building was added to the Kansas City Register of Historic Places in 2007, preventing it from being demolished. In recent years, plans have been put forth to turn the workhouse into a community center and venue.

Kansas City Workhouse Castle

In 2014 Daniel and Ebony Edwards with a grant from the Community Capital Fund of $12,000 and help of 350 volunteers cleaned up tons of garbage. After that abandoned castle was unused and overgrown.

As of 2022, investors and developers developers prepared preliminary design plans for renovating the Kansas City Workhouse Castle and building a 38,000-square-foot addition for a 60-room boutique hotel and event space. The estimation cost of project is $16 million and $1.2 million of tax money would be put towards as a grant.

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