Kansas City fire crews battle blaze at former Catholic school on Swope Parkway

Fire crews worked to extinguish a substantial fire at an abandoned school Thursday morning in Kansas City.

First responders were called early in the morning to a fire at the former St. Martin de Porres Schoolat 5840 Swope Parkway, said Jason Spreitzer, a spokesman with the Kansas City Fire Department.

An automatic alarm first alerted firefighters, who responded to the structure fire in the abandoned building, he said. When crews arrived at the site, they reported seeing flames coming from the second floor up to the third floor. No injuries were reported.

As of 7:45 a.m., firefighters were “actively in defense mode,” Spreitzer said, adding that firefighters continued pouring large amounts of water onto the building from above using ladder trucks.

“When I heard about the fire this morning, it was kind of heartbreaking to see a wonderful building like that go up in smoke,” said Michael King, owner and operator of Manhattan Cleaners & Hat Works, which has been on the corner across the street from the school since 1966.

Because his business has been there so long, he remembers when the building was home to the school. It later became a treatment center. It’s been vacant for at least five years and was up for sale, he said.

“Every day, I would hope that someone would come along and put in the monies necessary to bring it back to life,” King said.

The school was built by the St. Louis, King of France Parish, a new parish founded in the Swope Park area in 1919. The church was dedicated in 1920 and over the next five years, St. Louis School was built and a convent for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who would teach at the school, was purchased, according to a story in the Catholic Key about the parish’s centennial celebration.

The school’s name later was changed to Saint Martin de Porres School when it consolidated with Blessed Sacrament School. The School closed at the end of the 1989 school year, according to The Star’s story in 2014 about a 60-year reunion of some of the school students.

The diocese sold the property to Renaissance West in 1990, which ran a women’s residential addiction-rehabilitation center there.