Being an archivist is like putting a puzzle together without the picture on the box. Case in point: We recently found a photo of a small building at Unity Farm dated 1923. I wondered, Was the building still there? So I took the photo and started driving around. It turned out that the photo matched a building that sits on the golf course behind the Clubhouse. Intrigued, I wanted to know more.

Returning to the archives, I pulled some historic maps, a 1920s postcard collection, newsletters, and old appraisal books. One postcard pictured the building along with a turreted building in the background. The handwritten note on the back said, “pumping station.” The 1931 map had “pump house” written underneath the little building, but with an arrow pointing to another building. I still couldn’t find the right puzzle piece.

My next step was to measure the building on the golf course using Google Earth. I found the dimensions fit the description from the appraisal book for a structure called Wellhouse No. 1. There were at least two wellhouses at the farm in the 1920s, and as I wrote in a previous column, I thought the potting shed had been one of them. Apparently not so!

So I scoured old issues of Unity News in search of any mention of the wellhouse, the pump house, and the potting shed—three of the oldest farm buildings still standing at Unity Village. Here’s what I discovered about each.

Join Jolene Clark on a journey through the past of Unity Village as she fits the puzzle pieces together in this intriguing archival exploration.

Wellhouse No. 1 is indeed the small building behind the Golf Clubhouse. The well already existed when Unity purchased the farm in 1920. The house over the well was built in 1923, just as the photograph indicated. It was a source of water for the farm before construction of the Unity Tower. It was originally a dovecot (a small structure built to house doves or pigeons). If you look closely, you can still see the holes at the top of the building now covered in wire. Eventually, it became an equipment storage house.

The pump house, also called the powerhouse, sits down the road from the wellhouse. It is easily identifiable with its turret. Built in 1925, it pumped oil from wells at the farm. The wells produced enough oil to heat Unity headquarters in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and to cover the farm roads, and gasoline to run the farm trucks and machines. After the wells stopped producing, the building was repurposed as a maintenance shop in the 1950s. Currently, it’s used for storage.

The third building, the potting shed, was expanded in 1926 to include a greenhouse that no longer exists. The potting shed housed a boiler room, which provided heat for the greenhouses, and a packing room where workers planted fruits and vegetables. Now used for storage, it sits prominently between the Fillmore Café and the parking lot for the Carl L. Chinnery Nature Trail.

Sorting through early accounts and records is often confusing, but I’m glad the puzzle pieces finally started falling into place for some of these old buildings. The archives still contain unidentified photos and tidbits of history just waiting to be discovered.

This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.

About the Author

Jolene Clark is the archives manager at Unity World Headquarters. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri. To arrange to visit the archives at Unity Village, contact Clark at [email protected].

Jolene Clark


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