Northeast News | Independence Boulevard Christian Church: Over 135 Years Bringing the Gospel to Northeast Kansas City
The congregation of the Independence Boulevard Christian Church (IBCC) was established in 1886 and by the turn of the 20th century its growing membership was rapidly overtaking the original church building near present-day Sixth and Prospect Avenue. In 1902, one of the devotees, philanthropist and lumberjack Robert Alexander Long purchased land at 2900 Independence Boulevard for $ 10,000 as a site for a new church building. Long has pledged about $ 70,000 of the $ 125,000 for half of the construction costs.
Long hired nationally renowned architectural firm Howe, Hoit and Cutler to design the new building. By this time, the company was already a well-known product in Kansas City, having designed a number of downtown apartment buildings, as well as homes for some of Kansas City’s most prominent residents.
Built primarily of Bedford Bluff limestone, the IBCC’s design is pure Greek in style which includes two north-facing gables that resemble classical Greek temples, supported by massive limestone columns topped with Ionic capitals.
Inside, the circular sanctuary can accommodate around 1,200 people and has a balcony on three sides. The benches were carved from solid Philippine mahogany and placed on wall-to-wall carpeting. A lighted dome rises above the floor of the shrine. The magnificent structure was completed in September 1905.
Dr. John A. Brooke was the first pastor and served five years. He was succeeded by the Reverend George H. Coombs, whose son later married Robert and Ella Long’s daughter, Loula. The growing congregation was looking for additional space, and a three-story educational wing was added in 1909 at a cost of approximately $ 175,000, most of which was funded by Mr. Long. The new wing doubled the size of the communion room on the first floor. The second and third floors included classrooms, a prayer chapel, a library and pastor’s office, the famous “salt box” gymnasium and a swimming pool. The swimming pool was filled in 1947 and converted into a classroom.
Some called it RA Long Church because the wealthy lumberjack had greatly contributed to its growth and construction.
The magnificent Casavant organ, built in Quebec, Canada by the Casavant Frères Organ Company over a three-year period at a cost of $ 175,000, has 67 rows, 3,731 pipes, six divisions, four keyboards, 53 stops and 56 registers. It was inaugurated in 1968, replacing the original Austin Organ, installed in 1910, which consisted of 53 rows, 3,619 pipes, six divisions, four keyboards, 51 stops and 66 registers.
The carillon, not pictured on this Max Bernstein postcard, was built in 1919 in a large tower above the educational wing and consists of eleven bells, the smallest of which weighs 575 pounds.
In recent years, the majestic dome above the sanctuary has been restored to its original shimmering white and the organ has also undergone a complete renovation and restoration. In 2015, the church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Independence Boulevard Christian Church remains active in the historic northeastern community today and offers a number of outreach programs to surrounding neighborhoods. The church is also home to a new private school, the Ryogoku Soccer Academy, a school that combines athletics and education for a comprehensive educational experience.