Then and Now:
Kansas Masonic Home
THEN: Maplewood, the second home Robert E. Lawrence
at 415 S. Seneca about 1890. It was built of large cut stone in Victorian
Romanesque architectural style.
(Photo credit: Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum,
In 1870, Robert E. Lawrence homesteaded a quarter section of land west of the
Arkansas River bounded by what is now Maple, Seneca, Hiram, and McCormick. In
1889, he built a home constructed of large cut stone at the corner of Seneca and
Maple, and named it Maplewood.
The structure and 15 acres of land were purchased in 1896 by the Masons and
the Eastern Star for use as the Kansas Masonic Home for aging members and
orphans. They enlarged the Lawrence home, and several additions were build
through the years. In 1906, the Eastern Star constructed a chapel on the
Tragedy struck the home during the cold, winter night of Dec. 21, 1916. A
teenage boy was left in charge of the boiler room for the night, but he drifted
off to sleep. According the Wichita Beacon for Dec. 22, 1916, “He was wakened up
by a crackling of flames about 2 o’clock. The boiler room was a seething furnace
of flame fed by crude oil.” He was scorched by the flames as he “ran to the
instrument board in the boilerroom to turn off the motors that drove the oil
pumps” but mistakenly turned off the lights for the entire building. This left
parts of the home in darkness and seriously handicapped the rescue work of the
“Meanwhile the pumps continued to pour crude oil on the flames until the
motors were consumed.” It was a subzero night, and firefighters were hampered
by freezing water lines and the bitter cold.
By the time the fire was out, only one of the domitories and the chapel
still stood. There were 108 residents and employees in the building, and of
these, five perished.
Before the coals of the fire had cooled, the Masons began a fund-raising
drive to replace the facility. The corner stone for the new building, designed
by Edward Tilton, was laid in 1918 and the new building opened in 1921. It was
in white stucco in the Mission Revival style.It was named the East Wing after a
west wing was completed in 1930. Unfortunately, the majority of the complex’s
east side buildings have been razed over the past few years.
The Kansas Masonic Home is on the local Wichita Register of Historic Places.
||NOW: The East Wing of the Kansas Masonic Home stands on
the site of Robert E. Lawrence’s Maplewood. The white stucco building with a
red tile roof was completed in 1921. The Mission architectural style is in
sharp contrast to the Victorian Romanesque which it replaced.
(Photo credit: Discover Historic Wichita, City of Wichita,
Historic Preservation Office, Department of Planning, on line at: