Christian Church Hospital
Lumber baron Robert A. Long was
known throughout the land as a self-made millionaire who regularly gave
hundreds of thousands of dollars to local causes he deemed worthy.
Those causes included the (then) new Independence Boulevard Christian
Church and the capital funds drive to build the Liberty Memorial (see
article below), which Long spearheaded almost single-handedly.
One lesser-known cause was the building of the Christian Church Hospital just west of Troost Park. Long donated $200,000 towards building the hospital, which opened in April of 1916. Another $150,000 was raised by local church members to an endowment fund, the income to insure that one-third of the beds would be used by charity patients, a stipulation of Long’s gift. The hospital was a part of a grand plan hatched by Long to make Kansas City the national headquarters for the Christian Church.
About five years earlier, Long had purchased a tract of land between Hardesty and Brighton, from 17th to 20th and directed noted architect Henry Hoit to draw up plans for a number of church buildings for the site. This area is now the Saint Paul School of Theology.
In 1926, Christian Church Hospital was commissioned as an official Veterans Hospital, housing disabled World War I veterans. After being operated as a neurological clinic, the facility later became the Robinson Memorial Hospital, named for Neurologist Dr. Wilse Robinson. Today the building is undergoing a complete rehabilitation and will be used for senior housing.
The postcard was published by the Elite Postcard publishing Company of Kansas City, Missouri.
The fighting of the World War ended on November 11, 1918. After the guns on the European battlefields were silenced, and the huge celebrations that followed had died down, concerned citizens in the United States reflected on this cataclysmic event and the losses sustained. What could be done to remember and honor those who had served? Just two weeks after the Armistice, a meeting of Kansas City leaders brought forth the idea for the creation of a lasting monument and memorial.
R. A. Long became the founding president of the Liberty Memorial Association and its leading spokesman. He said, “From its inception it was intended that this Memorial should represent on the part of all people, a living expression for all time of the gratitude of a grateful people to those who offered and who gave their lives in defense of liberty and our country.”
A community-based fund-raising drive in 1919, led by Long, J. C. Nichols, and other Association members, raised over $2 million in less than two weeks through public subscription in Kansas City and around the nation. This staggering accomplishment reflected the passion of public opinion about the Great War. Following the drive, a national architectural competition led to the selection of an architect. A 1921 site dedication and a 1923 ground-breaking followed, and in 1926 the Liberty Memorial opened to the public amidst great national interest and acclaim.
In 2002 a massive restoration project drew to a close, bringing the Memorial back to the excellent physical condition that Mr. Long would have recognized. Subsequently, an additional $26.5 million was raised to complete dramatic underground expansion of the Liberty Memorial Museum, recently designated by federal law as “America’s National World War I Museum.” Work was then begun on a 30,000 sq. ft. core exhibition on the history of WWI and a 20,000 sq. ft. research center to hold the Museum’s library, archives, and collections storage.
With this physical expansion has come an expansion of the organization’s mission as well. Dedicated to becoming an important educational institution for the Kansas City area and the nation, the Liberty Memorial Museum recently opened the R. A. Long Educational Center. This facility, supported by the R. A. Long Foundation, promises to play a critical role in the on-site educational programming.
“We pay tribute today to the memory of a man because the good he has done for our town and country will never end ... a man who made dreams come true ... tireless and of fearless courage ... to achieve day after day for the city he loved.
There is a skyline in the lives of great men as there is a skyline in a city. From humble beginnings and lower constructers arise the peaks. Such men are the leaders of their time, dominating the fields in which they labor. They serve as stepping stones to greater things to be.”
Liberty Memorial – The Birth of a Vision
‘Full credit for (the conception of the plan) is given to R. A. Long – who since has been head of the association that handled the project.
It was at a dinner in the Hotel Muehlebach at which twenty men, high in business and professional life in Kansas City, were present. The time was but a few days after the signing of the Armistice agreement, November 11, 1918.
A plan was advanced by the host for the construction of a “Soldier Memorial,” to cost about four or five hundred thousand dollars. It was greeted enthusiastically and met with almost instant approval until it reached the far end of the “festive board.”
Mr. Long cast the opposing vote. He rose and scorned the idea as far beneath the populace of a city such as Kansas City.
on Picture to View Enlargement)
By the tens of thousands, onlookers flocked to Union Station
and the hillside where the Liberty Memorial would be built.
That date was November 1, 1921,
and the occasion was the dedication of the site.
|“We should not erect
a building for utilitarian purposes,” he said. “Its
constant use by future generations will in time
“We should construct for those veterans who fought for liberty and the honor of our country, a monument that will reach into the skies and remain an everlasting tribute to their spirit of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice.
“To do this, we should raise 2 or 3 million dollars.”
The host, who was relating the story, said two or three men at the table came near to fainting when the force of Mr. Long’s words had taken effect and the realization of what an enormous task would confront them had developed.
The plan was discussed, however, and when Mr. Long had finished talking it was agreed his plan was the more fitting for Kansas City.
Later the Liberty Memorial Association was formed and he was chosen its president, a position he has held continuously since.’