The Ruins of Kansas City Workhouse Castle

The abandoned and historical medieval-styled Kansas City Workhouse Castle is situated at 2001 Vine Street in Missouri. The towered stone fortification was first erected in 1897 as the “workhouse castle,” with a separate jail to house minor offenders and vagrants. The Romanesque revival style was popular at the time, so Kansas City architects A. Wallace Love and James Oliver Hog created this unusual castle design for the project.

The castle was erected with the intention of minimizing congestion and fire concerns in municipal jails, and it could contain 112 men and 48 women at the time of its construction. By 1897, the number of convicts had climbed to 200.

From 1872 through 1924, the city workhouse put its convicts to labor on local public works projects, the first of which was the construction of the jail itself, which was created by the first prisoners who dug the limestone building blocks out of the ground.

The management and operations of the Kansas City Workhouse Castle were usually under heavy criticism. Overcrowding, frequent escapes, unclean bedding vermin, lack of medical attention, poor food, habitual gambling, prisoners kept in cells idle, and intoxicating liquors and drugs available to prisoners during confinement were among the grievances expressed to Mayor T. C. Crittenden, Jr. in a 1909 report. Following the release of the study, the superintendent and the majority of the employees resigned or were sacked.

Nevertheless, the jail closed in 1924 and was then utilized for a variety of reasons, including city storage, a Marine training camp, and a canine euthanasia center, as well as an event area for weddings and concerts. It was completely decommissioned in 1972. It thereafter fell into disrepair. The roof and internal flooring gave way. Garbage and foliage encroached on every available area, and street art covered the walls.

The structure was listed to the Kansas City Registry of Historic Sites in 2007, saving its demolition. Plans to convert the workhouse into a community center and venue have been floated in recent years.

Daniel and Ebony Edwards cleaned up tons of rubbish in 2014 with the support of 350 volunteers and a $12,000 grant from the Community Capital Fund. The abandoned castle was underused and overgrown after that.

By 2022, investors and developers had completed preliminary design plans for refurbishing the Kansas City Workhouse Castle and constructing a 38,000-square-foot extension to house a 60-room boutique hotel and event space. The estimated cost of the project is $16 million, including $1.2 million in tax money allocated as a grant.

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