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Many historically African-American neighborhoods across the US have fallen into disrepair, with buildings being neglected, abandoned, and razed. The 18th and Vine District in Kansas City, Missouri, whose enduring ruin of Wheatley-Provident Hospital has much to say, is no exception.
Dedicated in 1918, a time when African Americans were largely excluded from medical care and training, the hospital was the first in Kansas City to employ and train black medical professionals and also treat black patients. It shuttered its doors in 1972 and has since been used as a haunted house attraction — the word ASYLUM stands atop as a souvenir — before falling into complete disrepair. It has recently served as an informal refuge for homeless citizens.
In an effort to save the building from demolition, Wheatley-Provident Hospital was added to the city’s Register of Historic Places in 2007. Whether or not it is restored to its former glory, the building remains a monument to the community that founded it.
Architect and artist Benjamin Busch, who is currently studying spatial strategies at Weissensee School of Art in Berlin, recently caught up with Michael Adams, a Kansas City-based economist and amateur historian/genealogist, whose current area of interest centres on Missouri’s African-American community. Zeroing in on the Wheatley Provident Hospital, their discussion revolved around the indirect role Civil Rights legislation played in the its eventual dilapidation. […]