Western bears the distinction of being the first, and only, Christian Institution west of the Mississippi River founded by Blacks exclusively. The purposes underlying the founding of this school were: first, a desire to meet the demands of ministerial training; secondly, to provide education under Christian influence for young people.
The following is the brief history taken by excerpts from the colleges’ history, by one of its early and most distinguished graduates, Dr. J. T. Caston, Physician and Minister.
For two months prior to April 1889, the National Baptist Standard, a paper owned and edited by Rev. G. H. McDaniels, of Hannibal, Mo., heralded forth a call for a meeting with the Morgan Street Baptist Church of Sedalia, MO. on the 12thday of April 1889.
Pursuant to the plans of the Sedalia meeting, on October 8, 1889, representatives of the different district associations and churches met with the Second Baptist Church of Chillicothe and organized the Baptist General Association of Missouri. The Constitution provided the Corresponding Secretary and the Financial Agent.
The Board held a special meeting and decided to meet at Independence, on Wednesday, October 23, 1889, to complete arrangements with the Second Baptist Church for a building preparatory to the opening. October 23, 1889, the Board met at Independence and with the trustees of the Second Baptist Church of the city, made and executed a lease providing for the use of the old church property for school purposes, for a term of five (5) years.
Following this meeting, the President and Secretary of the Board visited Independence, arranged the building, secured the necessary fixtures, and announced the opening for January, 1890. On the 13th with a number of visitors and friends of the city, to witness and take part in the opening exercises of the Western College. Appropriate program was rendered. The morning was devoted to Prayer and Praise, and the afternoon to addresses.
The exercises were completed late in the evening by enrolling students and installing Rev. Wilton R. Boone as the first President. After collection was taken, all joined in singing. The closing prayer was offered by Rev. J. T. Caston. The institution was organized, commenced its work with a faculty consisting of a President, and an Assistant Student Teacher; term four (4) months, enrollment fourteen (14), seven (7) of whom were young men engaged in the ministry.
In the Fall of 1890, before the school term began, the Board employed another Teacher in the person of Prof. W. F. Smith, A.M., of Kansas City, Mo. At the expiration of the second term, Rev. Wilton R. Boone resigned the presidency. At a meeting of the Board, held in Chillicothe, July 31, 1891, three applications for permanent location were considered and, after much deliberation, the offer of Macon, Missouri, was accepted which provided for a gift of seventeen (17) acres of land valued at $100 per acre and day of January, 1890, the Board met in the building prepared for school purposes,
$300 in cash. It was also stated in the application that the bid was to be considered $2000 if the Board reserved the right to select another site in the city. September 18, 1891, the Board met at Macon and selected a permanent site for the school, consisting of twelve (12) acres of land with a larger two-story brick building, three-fourths of a mile from the business part of town.
In January, 1892, the school was reopened in Macon, with Prof. W. F. Smith, A.M., and Mrs. C. R. McDowell, Teachers. This was another short term owing to the necessity of securing property, moving, etc. During the summer of 1892, the Board succeeded in securing the services of Rev. E. L. Scruggs, A.M., B.D., as President.
The white Baptist brethren of Missouri endorsed the work and permitted the representative of the school to come before their churches and present the claims of the institution, which was usually followed by a collection. The Baptist Home Mission Society of New York came to our rescue and assisted in caring for our teachers, and also gave a donation of $1200 on our new building erected in 1892. They also paid the State Missionary’s salary (in full) until the corporation plan was inaugurated.
In September 1920, Western College was moved from Macon, Missouri to new quarters on the Ridge Estate, located at 2101 Woodland Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. After a decade of occupancy of that site it proved to be much too small, so within a few more years the present property at 2119 Tracy Avenue in Kansas City, was secured.
Clamped in the vice of the depression years of the 1930’s, the school was forced to close its doors during the school year 1935-36. After reorganization was effected, the school was reopened in August 1937 as Western Seminary.
What is the History of the two buildings that Western occupies?
The main building or Goins Hall, the administration building’s situs address is 2119 Tracy Avenue. It is the former Gillis Orphans Home. The second building, Johnson Hall, where the girls and women stay for the Young People’s Department annual encampment situs address is 2125 Tracy Avenue. It is the former Armour Home for Aged Couples.
These two buildings were constructed by Kansas City’s Women’s Christian Association (WCA), one Kansas City’s earliest philanthropic organization. They were constructed in 1899-1900 and 1903-04 respectively.
Are Western’s buildings on the National Register of Historic Places?
No. They are on the Landmarks Commission, City of Kansas City, Mo. A register of Historic Places. It was listed on December 22, 1988. Case No. 0122-D. The two buildings do have merit and are eligible to be on the National Register. In February 2000 the Historic Preservation Services, LLC of the Department of Housing and Community Development did a review of “Missouri Section 106/Determination of National Register Eligibility” for the properties in the Beacon Hill Neighborhood. The buildings 2119 and 2125 are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A for the areas of INSTITUTIONAL HOUSING AND ETHHNIC HISTORY and Criterion C for the area
Are the two buildings structurally sound?
Yes. There has been several structure engineers and architects over the years inspect the buildings formally and informally. The most recent review and study was done formerly by Mr. John Crawford, Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Mo. His report was dated August 17, 2000.
The president of the school and the trustee board have received these documented reports.
How Much Will it Cost to Renovate the Two Buildings?
The 2119 building is approximately 24,162 sq.ft. that includes the basement and 2125 building is approximately 23,852 sq.ft. that also includes the basement. A total of 4 floors in each building. Estimated cost How many acres does Western sit on? Western sits on approximately 3.5 acres.