History Hall Gives a Peek into the Past
Walk down any hallway at KMH and you’ll experience our rich history in every nook and cranny. However, our History Hall is one place in particular that stores a wealth of knowledge about KMH. History Hall showcases historical pictures and chronicles Kansas Masonic Home’s detailed history, dating back to 1896. During this time, we were founded as a home to serve orphans, widows and elders. Keep reading to take a deeper look into the history of Wichita’s Kansas Masonic Home.
The Construction of KMH
Col. Robert Lawrence and his wife Laura built a beautiful home in 1889. It was designed by architects Proudfoot and Bird on fifteen acres that Mr. Lawrence purchased in 1870. The property was bordered by the current streets of University, Maple, Martinson and Seneca. Then, in honor of his wife, Col. Lawrence planted a row of maple trees along the north boundary of the property. In 1918, Edward L. Tilton, a noted New York architect, was commissioned to design the new Kansas Masonic Home.
Then in 1919, the new Kansas Masonic Home was dedicated. Hundreds of visitors toured the building during an open house. According to a pre-construction report, “The Home will consist of nine different buildings. All floors are to be concrete except for one wooden floor where there will be dancing. The dishwasher will have a capacity of three thousand dishes per hour.” Once finished, the home consisted of seven separate buildings connected by corridors. This included an infirmary, men’s and women’s dorms, a children’s dorm, the administration building and a chapel.
In the Early Years of KMH
According to sources in History Hall, in 1923, a new addition to the hospital was completed. In 1927, a thirty foot monument was constructed at Maple Grove Cemetery in Wichita. It was dedicated to mark the graves of members of the Kansas Masonic Home. Initially plotted for 84 graves, the site has individual markers for more than 250 former residents who have passed away.
In 1931, The West Wing (off Martinson Street) was completed. This meant that now 140 adults and 127 children were able to call KMH home. Then in 1940, a total of 323 residents lived at KMH. This included 147 men, 129 women, twenty-nine boys and eighteen girls. 291 patients were admitted to the Infirmary during that year. While walking through History Hall, you can also go back to 1946 and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of KMH. The celebration included an open house and was attended by more than two thousand people.
Children at KMH
As you’ll see within History Hall, children were very much a part of Kansas Masonic Home early on. In 1919, shortly after the Kansas Masonic Home was dedicated, the girls’ dormitory was dedicated. In 1924, there were fifty-nine men, thirty-nine women, fifty-three boys and fifty-seven girls living at KMH. Fifteen of the boys were Boy Scouts and fifteen of the girls were Campfire Girls. All of the school age children attended public school and received music lessons at KMH. As the decades passed, children became a smaller and smaller percentage of the residents at KMH. This gap only increased in the 1940s when social service organizations began developing services that specifically benefited children. By 1949, there were only sixteen children residing at KMH.
Experience the History Yourself
Learn more about KMH’s rich history by setting up a tour of History Hall. Also learn what KMH has to offer while taking a tour of the campus. Call or contact us online to set up an appointment. Life takes you many places, but KMH brings you home.