The historic Vernon School building in Kansas City, KS, and the 142-year-old First AME Church in Topeka will be repaired and rehabilitated thanks to grant funding from the National Park Service
The Vernon School, located in the Quindaro District of KCK, was one of 10 historic sites selected to receive funding in this year’s awards in the NPS’s History of Equal Rights Grants. This award is the second African American Civil Rights grant awarded for renovation of First AME Church.
“The History of Equal Rights Grant program helps preserve sites where communities came together to advance civil rights,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “These funds support our State, Tribal, and local governments and nonprofit partners in telling a more complete story of the road to equal rights for all Americans.”
The Vernon School, was originally the school for Black children in the Quindaro Township located along the banks on the Kansas side of the Missouri River in Kansas City. The school was renamed the Vernon School in 1900 in recognition of Bishop Tecumseh Vernon who was appointed by the AME Church as president of Western University, which was constructed on the Quindaro site.
In 1936, the existing Vernon School was built to replace the original school building, which was overcrowded and condemned as a fire hazard. In 1972, the Vernon School was closed as part of the efforts to integrate the Kansas City, KS, public schools. Instead of razing the building, the school district sold it to the AME Church to serve as a community center.
The National Park Service awarded Vernon Multipurpose Center, Inc. $185,680 for renovations expected to be completed in 2023.
“The African American Civil Rights Grants are critical to helping preserve and interpret a more comprehensive narrative of the people, places, and events associated with the African American Civil Rights movement,” said Sams.
The African American Civil Rights Grants fund a variety of projects from rehabilitation to oral history documentation.
The First AME Church, built in 1880, was established by Exodusters who left the South between 1877 and 1880, with many settling in Kansas because it was originally a free state.
The church received a $489,900 grant for phase two of their renovation. The historic church has withstood floods and fires, and the exterior rehabilitation, stained-glass restoration and interior renovations completed in the first-phase grant received by the church provided the essentials to ensure the church building will be standing in another 100 years.
Funding for the grants is made from the Historic Preservation Fund. The HPF uses revenue from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, to assist with a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars, with the intent to mitigate the loss of a nonrenewable resource to benefit the preservation of other irreplaceable resources.
Established in 1977, the HPF is authorized at $150 million per year through 2023 and has provided more than $2 billion in historic preservation grants to states, Tribes, local governments, and nonprofit organizations.