The old Gilpin School is open for business.

The old Gilpin School is open for business.

The structure – located at 3029 N. River Blvd. in Sugar Creek, it is the oldest school building in Jackson County – is available for wedding receptions, family reunions and parties with ample room for about 150 people. There is a lower level that includes a kitchen and meeting hall. The main floor functions as a dance hall. The grounds may be used for any number of activities including badminton, basketball and picnicking.

“It’s no Taj Mahal,” said Matt Mallinson, who owns the property that was last used by the Knights of Columbus for balls. He has been rehabbing the structure the past year. “But it’s affordable, and the history of the thing is just phenomenal.”

Several years ago Mallinson, who owns Matt’s Medicine Store in Independence, bought the building and five acres surrounding it. The property is across the street from his home.

“We bought it because we didn’t want the place to be torn down,” Mallinson said. “It has historic value.”

The structure took its name from William Gilpin, a geopolitician of Quaker ancestry who believed Independence along with Westport and Kansas City would form three corners of a marvelous city he dubbed “Centropolis.”

“If you enter the name Gilpin in a search engine, you’ll get a gillion pages on him,” Mallinson said. “I just fell in love with the concept of restoring this property for the sake of an untold rich history of the area.”

Gilpin’s vision was based on a theory that all major cities, even those from ancient times, had specific isothermal, or temperature, belts. He wrote that the Missouri River would be “the most thronged in the world. It is central, east and west, to the American continent, to the basin of the Mississippi and to the American Union... (it is) the axis of the population, commerce, transportation and habitation of the human race.”

In the 1840s, Gilpin acquired 858 acres of land in modern-day Sugar Creek as the first step in making his Centropolis dream a reality. It was to become Gilpintown, with the structure at 3029 N. River Blvd. – a school house until 1962 – at its center. The town would never amount to much, however, as no one cared to invest in it.

Mallinson is in the process of incorporating the Gilpin property into the National Trails System. The path leading to the Wayne City Landing – once the chief steamboat port in Independence, it is the only place in the country where four National Historic Trails overlap – knifed through the property.

“The history is so rich it’ll awe your socks off,” Mallinson said.

Looking for photos

Mallinson is seeking historic photographs of the property, which he hopes to display inside. He may be reached at his store 816-833-3636 or by calling 816-590-7979.