Two-alarm fire destroys historic Westport Presbyterian Church

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas City church, built 107 years ago, was destroyed by a two-alarm fire Thursday.

The fire was first reported around 5:30 p.m. at the Westport Presbyterian Church located at 201 Westport Road.

Two people were inside the church when the fire broke out.  Both got out safely and were not hurt.

Rev. Scott Myers said it's not just a loss to the 176-year-old congregation but also to the greater Kansas City community.  Several organizations, like the Westport  Center for the Arts, used the church regularly.

Fire crews spent several hours trying to get the fire under control.  They returned to the church early Friday to put out even more hot spots.  Firefighters were never able to go inside the church due to the size of the blaze.

The massive blaze was ruled accidental on Friday, according to the Kansas City Fire Battalion Chief Joe Vitale. It was accidental in nature, with the ignition of combustible materials during the installation of an AC unit on the roof. Estimated damages were placed between $3 and $4 million dollars.

Myers has been the pastor of the church for 17 years.  He said the church is "an anchor for this community.  It is very community oriented.  It sends out a lot of love."

Myers has received several offers from churches in the area to host Sunday services but he hasn't decided on a location just yet.

Myers hopes to rebuild at the current location but will have to wait for a structural engineer's report.  The stone walls are three feet thick and still standing. 

According to the church's website, the congregation was founded in November 1835 as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The congregation moved into a small building located at 706 Westport Road until 1895. Then, the congregation moved into a building at 201 Westport Road until it was destroyed by a fire in 1903. The congregation then built and occupied the present building in 1904, also at 201 Westport Road. Rev. Scott Myers has been the church's pastor since 1994.

The Willow Woods Child Development Center is connected to the church. Parents of Willow Woods said the day care was protected by a fire door but there is water and smoke damage inside.  The Kansas City Public Library and a U.S . Post Office are also near the church. 

There are several organizations who use the church regularly:

  • Westport House for Senior Citizens
  • The Westport Brownbag Concert Series
  • Westport Center for the Arts
  • Children's Peace Quest
  • Cinema and Soul Film and Discussion series
  • Boy Scout Troop 60

Groups such as the Historic Kansas City Foundation, UMKC Communiversity classes, Westport Cooperative Services, Tai Chi, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and many international folk dance groups have met in the church or had office space at the church for many years.

Pam Seymour, the executive director of Westport Cooperative Services, was inside the church when the fire started.  Her team provides meals and other services for seniors and other homebound people in Jackson County. Seymour said they will operate on Friday. Call Seymour at (816) 753-0848 for more information.

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