Society of Architectural Historians tour 
St. Mary’s Church at St. Benedict was host on Friday, September 19, 2003 to the tour “America’s Heartland” sponsored by the National Society of Architectural Historians. Forty-four distinguished Architectural Historians and Art Historians from more than 20 states visited the church.

“Who might ever expect to see such a magnificent building as St. Mary’s Church here in remote northeast Kansas – and to have it so beautifully restored,” commented Dr. Pam Kingsbury, Wichita, co-leader of the tour. Dr. Kingsbury, who holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Chicago, was joined by co-leader Dr. Robert Winter, Pasadena, CA. Dr. Winter received his Ph.D. in American Cultural History at Johns Hopkins University.

 

The tour began on Sunday, Sept. 14 in Des Moines, IA where the group viewed the Iowa State Capitol with its elegant library and murals. On Tuesday, they traveled to Ida Grove, IA to marvel at that town’s medieval castle architecture. Next was Sioux City where they saw the extraordinary Woodbury County Courthouse. On Wednesday the group was in Omaha, touring Union Station and the Joslyn Art Museum. Thursday was reserved for Lincoln, NE, touring the State Capitol and Woodshire Park, the Plymouth Congregational Church and the Sheldon Art Gallery. On Friday the group began with a tour of Arbor Manor in Nebraska City, next stopping at St. Mary’s Church where a luncheon was served. The group departed St. Benedict to pick up at Kansas State University with its Richardsonian Romanesque campus later in the day. Saturday included a picnic lunch in the barn of the Z Bar Spring Hill Ranch near Strong City. On Sunday, the group visited several locations in Wichita included the Allen House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s last Prairie School residence.

Among those on the tour was Ms. Amy Ballard, Historic Preseveration Specialist, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. and Pauline A. Saliga, Executive Director of the Society of Architectural Historians, Chicago.

 St. Mary’s Church was constructed in 1889-93. Originally decorated by G. F. Satory of Wabasha, Minnesota in 1905, the church was fully restored in 1980-83 by Joe Oswalt and co-workers. In 1993, a complete window repair by Hoefer Stained Glass, Hutchinson and repair of cap stones, window sills and tuck pointing down to the mid-tower level. St. Mary’s Church was enrolled as a Kansas historic Site in 1978 and to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The interior restoration project received the 1982 Kansas Preservation Alliance Award for Excellence.


 

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