Noland Road landmark coming down in east KC

Small as it was, the clapboard building on Noland Road was a step up for congregants of Little Blue Baptist Church.

Before the little church was dedicated on Jan. 19, 1921, the faithful met for several years in a railroad car called Glad Tidings. It sat on a nearby rail spur in what was then a village called Little Blue.

Soon, that stretch of Noland Road, where it intersects with Little Blue Road in east Kansas City, will show a bare spot just off to the east.

The church will be razed soon by a 50-member congregation that can no longer afford to maintain it.

Members of Little Blue Baptist called the old church home for 44 years, but they have worshipped since 1965 in a new church built on adjacent grounds. The old church fell into decay.

Demolition will happen soon, probably in the next month, said Joyce Boin Travis-Justice, a congregant since about 1945.

At 81, she’s the oldest person there who attended the old church.

“These (foundation) stones, I understand, were put there by German-immigrant masons,” Travis-Justice said of the original building.

“It’s the same kind of stone work as what’s in the old Truman Medical Center East building. We want to save as many of these stones as we can,” she said, possibly to use to build a memorial.

When the congregation was at the old church, it undertook several missions to help other communities establish churches, Travis-Justice said. And both buildings have served as training churches for students in the Baptist seminary.

Travis-Justice said her father helped dig the basement that was added to the old church in the 1950s.

“I really hate to see it go, because I have family history here,” she said. “But, you know, things have to go.”

Travis-Justice is working on a book about the church’s history and trying to find past members who might have church-related documents. She contacted the Jackson County Historical Society and found that the old building holds no special historical significance.

“Our oldest people have sentimental feelings about it ... but they realize there are better ways to spend our money,” she said. “Seeing it decayed — you feel really bad about that. I think it’s sad to see a landmark go in our community.”

The church’s pastor for the past three years, Andrew Roshto, said he understood that losing the old church hits the congregation’s elder members hardest. But it’s too expensive to maintain, he said, and it brings added insurance liabilities because of its condition.

Roshto also made a distinction in how to define a church.

“The church is the people, not the building,” he said. “Many in the community have sentimental memories but don’t come back to attend services. They’re always welcome to come back. I wish we could have kept the place running. We could have opened it for events and helped the community that way.”

Some members of Little Blue Baptist have mentioned having a picnic on demolition day — something nice to counteract the sense of loss and maybe reminisce, Travis-Justice said.

Just before the walls start to come down, the congregation will gather on the lawn of its first traditional church building.

“We’ll probably do a word of prayer,” Travis-Justice said. “We’ll thank God for the past.”