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 grounds.

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 firefighters.

“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: