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[graphic text] Ascending to New Heights

Guadalupe Center
Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Center

Guadalupe Center, constructed in 1936, was a successful settlement house and social center serving the growing Hispanic population of Kansas City 's Westside Neighborhood. As a result of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, many refugees came to the United States and a need arose for social welfare. In 1914 Father Jose Munoz, a Mexican Revolution refugee, immigrated to Kansas City, Missouri, and established Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Westside. As Father Munoz was the only Spanish-speaking priest in Kansas City, he attracted many Hispanics to the neighborhood. In 1919, the Catholic Diocese enlisted the help of the Agnes Ward Amberg Club for Women to establish the Guadalupe Center, which became one of the most successful settlement houses in the metropolitan area. The volunteer group of women who ran the center established a school and clinic to aid members of the Hispanic community in their struggle to adjust to American society. The Club secured funds for the Center through the Community Chest (the predecessor of the Heart of America United Way) that insured the Center's ability to provide essential services to all residents of the Westside regardless of color or religious affiliation.

Between 1926 and 1944 Dorothy Gallagher acted as the center's resident director. Under her direction the center flourished and provided a variety of cultural and social services including English classes, a medical clinic, boys and girls clubs, adult education classes, home economics and hygiene. Translators, available to help Hispanics apply for jobs and understand the American legal system, were a vital liaison between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities. The services offered by the center helped Hispanic people to acclimate to a new community, while preserving their culture and tradition.

Hall of Madonnas, one of the lounges
Photo courtesy of Guadalupe Center

By 1935 it was evident that a new building was needed for the Guadalupe Center to address the specific needs of the community. A decision was made to build a facility that would handle combined activities under one roof. The Amberg Club however was unable to handle the responsibility of a building fund campaign. In response, Dorothy Gallagher decided to finance the project herself. She remained strongly committed to seeing the Hispanic community retain its ethnic character. It was her decision to design the new facility in the style of Spanish Mission architecture. In 1934, the Kansas City architectural firm Raney and Corman designed the building which was constructed in 1936 by Frank H. Pavlik. The resulting rectangular two-story building, constructed of unreinforced cinder block and stucco, is characterized by a prominent Mission-shaped parapet on its main façade, a large balcony, faux vigas and a tiled gabled roof. Historic interior spaces feature faux beams and a decorative arched fireplace in the first floor lounge.

In 1944 the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph purchased Guadalupe Center. The Center continued to prosper through the 1960s, however in 1974 the Center entered a tumultuous period after it broke its ties with the Diocese and moved to a new facility. In 1991 the Guadalupe Center was able to purchase the original building from the Catholic diocese. The historic building was recently renovated and expanded. Today, the Guadalupe Center remains one of the area's most productive ethnic social organizations and one of the oldest, continually operating social service agencies for Hispanics in the United States.

The Guadalupe Center is located at 1015 Avenida Cesar E. Chavez in Kansas City, MO. To learn more, call 816-421-1015 or visit the Center's website.

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