City Workhouse Castle

2001 Vine St Kansas City

Kansas City Hidden Gems/City Workhouse Castle
The Budget Savvy Travelers
Written By The Budget Savvy Travelers

Audrey and Harry Lesner, otherwise known as The Budget Savvy Travelers, are full-time travelers and digital nomads. Born and raised in Chicago, their passion to show others how to break free without breaking the budget. They are the proud winners of the 2019 Top Budget Travel Blog.

City Workhouse Castle

At the intersection of 21st and Vine Street, in a historic Kansas City neighborhood, is the City Workhouse Castle. Locally it’s also known as “The Castle Building.” The abandoned piece of architecture is slowly being overtaken by nature, creating a hauntingly beautiful scene.

At the time of its construction, the building was considered highly fashionable because of the use of the Romanesque revival-style architecture.

Building History

This impressive stone fortress was built in 1897 as the original city jail. It mainly held debtors, vagrants, and petty offenders. As a working jail, inmates were required to labor for the local public works department. Their first assignment was to help construct the imposing jail by quarrying limestone. While they didn’t help in the design or erection of the building, they did play their part.

Upon the building's completion, prisoners continued their daily duties. Men worked for the city’s Public Works department and women sewed uniforms, among other things.


The jail closed in 1924. Over the next 50 years, it was repurposed several times and changed owners on more than a dozen occasions. The facility has now been lying vacant since 1972 and is covered in graffiti. This urban castle is a fascinating place to visit and a remarkable way to feel like you’re traveling through time.

There's an ongoing battle over the future of the dilapidated building. In the meantime, the property is easily accessible, and visitors have access to plenty of parking along the street.

This video offers an update on the abandoned City Workhouse Castle which sits idly in Kansas City:

Follow the ongoing City Workhouse Castle story

Cover image by Benjamin White is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Kansas City Hidden Gems

City Workhouse Castle

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