Some months ago ( I’m so behind on working on images), when Harland and I were in southwest Kansas, he told me he was going to show me the most beautiful stained glass windows he’d ever seen.
“Out here?” I asked.
“Yep”, he replied.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in the ghost town of Windthorst was built between 1911 and 1913.
Sand for the construction was hauled from the Arkansas river 10 miles away. Crushed rock was shipped to the nearby town of Bellefont via railroad and hauled eight miles out to Windthorst by teams of horses and wagons. Four rail carloads of brick were hauled before a heavy snowstorm suspended all operation until March, 1912. Rail carloads of bricks continued to arrive at the Bellefont station during that time, and parishioners walked in or rode horseback to do the unloading and storing of materials at the rail-head. The parishioners furnished 47 wagons and teams to haul this building material out from Bellefont after the clogged roads were re-opened in March 1912. The basement was excavated and the foundation was poured. The first brick was laid on May 4, the cornerstone on June 12, 1912.
Many of the church’s interior furnishings were donated by organizations and individual families.
The pews, statues, stations of the cross, baptismal font, Christmas crib, and may of the fixtures were installed at the time of the completion of the church building.
At the dedication of the church on June 12, 1913, it was declared one of the finest buildings in the western part of the state. It was built in the Gothic Romanesque Revival style with a steeple soaring 125 feet into the sky. The heating system and pipe organ were installed a year later.
Among the outstanding features of the church are the stained glass windows which were added in 1916.
These remarkable windows were handcrafted by artists, working for seven cents an hour, at the Emil Frei studios in Munich, Germany, and in St. Louis Missouri.
They were installed by the Emil Frei craftsmen from St. Louis.
Check out the angel Gabriel’s hair below. The Breck girl’s got nothing compared to this hairdo.
In 1918, the high altar with its canopy, and the two side altars were installed.
Windthorst was never a very big town, but they did have a school for a while and their beloved church. But sadly as the years went by, the community became smaller and smaller until there weren’t enough parishioners to keep the church open.
And so the church was closed as an active parish in 1997.
Today, Windthorst is no longer a town. There are no businesses, no post office, no school. There are just a collection of a few houses near a magnificent church. But services are longer held there.
The church building is currently owned and maintained by Windthorst Hertage, Inc. This group was formed with the goal of preservation and continued use of the historic Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
The church is open every day, so if you are in the neighborhood, stop by and pay it a visit.
A poem found on the nearby cemetery gate says it best:
Harland was right – this church does have the most beautiful stained glass I’ve ever seen.
For more information about the church, click HERE.
For the Windthorst Heritage website, click HERE.