The Strawberry Hill Ethnic Cultural Society was formed in 1988 to promote, sponsor and preserve the ethnic heritage prevalent in Kansas City, Kansas. The Cultural Center is housed in the Strawberry Hill Museum. Educational activities at the Center include classes in cooking, languages, crafts, folklore, music, dance and genealogy as well as seasonal events.
While focusing on the Croatian culture, the Strawberry Hill Museum also hosts permanent exhibits representing other cultures in the community which include Lithuanian, Polish, Slovakian, Slovenian, Russian and The Netherlands, Traditional items are on display including colorful handmade clothing, original work of glass, wood craftsmanship and musical instruments.
The museum is located in the former St. John the Batptist Children’s Home, an original Queen Ann style home built in 1887. The 1918 flu epidemic left many orphans among the Croatian community. The pastor, Martin Krmpotic, who himself had sponsored many of the original immigrating families, encouraged the parishoners to raise the funds to purchase the home in 1919 for an orphanage. The house, including the additions for the orphans, is in excellent condtition. Solid oak was used as wood trim-floors throughout are parquet. Rooms contain some of the home’s original pieces of furniture, stained glass windows and chandeliers of Bavarian Crystal with gold inlay from Czechoslovakia.
Around the turn of the century, immigrants from Easter Europe’s oldest cultures settled in areas now contained in the city of Kansas City, Kansas.
First attracted by the area’s agricultural lifestyle and the proximity of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers which joined the city’s edge, these immigrants relied on each other due to common customs, languages and their traditional family units. One after another small tightly knit communities, each with a distinct ethnic influence, grew together in the area.
The heritage forms the community spirit so recognizable in Kansas City, Kansas today. The history of the City is symbolized in diverse ethnic neighborhoods’ architecture and social events which contribute to the ethnic uniqueness of the city.
The Strawberry Hill are of Kansas City, Kansas is a living ethnic community. One of the most identifiable landmarks in the metropolitain area, Strawberry Hill is primarily a Croatian community, yet it represents the cultural diversity of all the people who have come to, grown up in, and raised families here.