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The Workhouse
The Workhouse
TitleThe Workhouse
DescriptionPostcard of the Workhouse Prison
Historical ArticleThe old stone workhouse, a castellated design of undressed stone at 2033 Vine Street (one block east of the Paseo), was considered one of the sights of Kansas City in 1907, according to an early Journal-Post newspaper story.

The castle-like building, with a long wing extending east from the building, contained a row of one-story prison cells for those who violated city ordinances. An armed guard sat on a platform on the north side exterior. Administrative offices occupied the front space in the circular turret. The scene was much like that of a medieval castle, without the moat.

From 1872 until 1911 the city workhouse was a cherished institution of political patronage. The management and practices were often severely criticized.

When Mayor T.C. Crittendon Jr. received the 1909 report of the Board of Pardons and Paroles with a list of grievances, including overcrowding, frequent escapes, unclean bedding, vermin, lack of medical attention, poor food, perpetual gambling, prisoners kept in cells in idleness and intoxicating liquors and drugs available to prisoners during confinement, the superintendent and most of the staff resigned or were fired.

George E. Kessler, Kansas City park board designer, called the warden of the federal prison at Leavenworth for advice. More than 100 acres of land southeast of Leeds, with running water, two gas wells, and four oil wells, were purchased for $30,000 for a new workhouse.

Kessler's plan for the Leeds facility made possible activities for the prisoners, such as vegetable gardening, quarrying and stone cutting. Underbrush was cleared, and barracks were built by the men, making possible a permanent move to the Leeds farm June 23, 1911. (Only women prisoners remained in the old workhouse.)

In later years the old building served the city in different ways such as sewer maintenance offices and storage.

Today the sturdy old castle, long unused, and the surrounding area is being considered for use as a museum complex for black history.

Kansas City Times
December 4, 1987

AuthorRay, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item TypePostcard
CollectionMrs. Sam Ray Postcard Collection (SC58)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36981
Local SubjectBuildings
Digital FormatJPEG
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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