Kansas City, Missouri: The City of Fountains
The History Behind the Fountains
For more than a 100 years, the construction of fountains in Kansas City has been part of the city's history. A tourist can spend a few days searching for them at leisure or a day walking around the Country Club Plaza to see over a dozen fountains. It doesn't stop there. There are supposedly over 200 fountains in Kansas City.
In the late 1800s, fountains were implemented to feed animals, and chiefly the horses because there were so many of them. From the past to the present, the fountains have represented a form of art. Whenever you see a new building go up in Kansas City, don't be surprised if it has a fountain on site. It has been said that outside of Rome, Kansas City probably has more fountains than any other city.
In 1973, Harold and Peggy Rice established the City of Fountains Foundation in an effort to secure funds to build and maintain the fountains. This foundation has a relationship with the Parks and Recreation Department of the city.
The fountains are so popular, they are found on desk calendars and books have been written about them. The architecture that goes into the design of some of the fountains is remarkable and outstanding. Whether you're a resident of Kansas City or a tourist, it is apparent that these beautiful fountains are a part of this city's culture.
J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain
The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain is one of the most popular fountains in Kansas City. This fountain consisting of equestrian figures was constructed in 1910 by French sculptor, Henri-Léon Greber (b. 1855, d. 1941). Greber originally designed the equestrian statues for an extraordinary mansion on Harbor Hill in Long Island, New York, which construction began in 1899. The statues were relocated to the Plaza area in Kansas City in 1957.
The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain is named after Jesse Clyde Nichols who is a noteworthy Kansas City, Missouri developer (1880-1950). J.C. Nichols who is credited for having established the Country Club Plaza, is the home of several fountains. This honorary fountain with its four very large bronze equestrian creations represent four major rivers of the world: the Rhine, the Seine, the Volga and the Mississippi.
Why Does Kansas City Have So Many Fountains?
If you visit Kansas City to taste its barbecue, then you have to spend some time touring the locations of the fountains. If you visit the Plaza on a sunny afternoon, you'll find yourself sitting on a bench in front of a fountain just to pass some time away and it's just plain relaxing. So, why does Kansas City have so many fountains? There is no particular reason that can be pinpointed, but there is a lot of history attached to the construction and design of the fountains.
According to Shelley Hill's article published on cincinnati.com, Kansas City Overflows With Fountains, "Fountains seem to be everywhere here, spurting from bronze dolphins and winged seahorses at City Hall, Greek gods and mermaids in the main shopping district, even around the ballpark scoreboard" (1999).
When Fountains Depict Events in Kansas City
When the Kansas City Royals have their season opener, you can see some of the fountains spewing out blue water. There's even a grand fountain at the Royals Stadium.
Likewise, if a tourist is here at the right time, the spraying water is pink to recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This year, 2012, will mark the 9th year that the University of Kansas Medical Center has lifted awareness of breast cancer with its support of the pink fountains memorializing both survivors and victims of breast cancer. This act isn't particular to just Kansas City, however, it's performed in other cities and countries as well.
The Childrens Fountain
This fountain erected in 1995 is another favored one (see photo below). It represents children playing at different elevations, and includes a handicapped boy with his crutches in mid-air. Located in North Kansas City, if you're at a red light adjacent to the fountain, it's certainly fun to observe. The bronze sculptures in this remarkable and interesting fountain were designed by Tom Corbin and are representative of actual life-sized children that allegedly lived in the Northland. Every minute, this fountain is pumping out 5,000 gallons of water.
The Northland Fountain
Sadly, when winter is upon Kansas City residents, the fountains shut down to keep from freezing except for one found in what many of the residents call The Northland. The Northland Fountain never stops spraying its water. In fact, even during freezing temperatures, it never shuts down so it looks like a spectacular piece of icey art! (See photos below of the Northland Fountain in the warm and the cold climates.)
The Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain
Crown Center Square Fountain
The Holiday and the Sounds of Water
The conditions of winter certainly determine the operations of fountains, but when the Crown Center Square Fountain is able to operate surrounded by holiday lighting, it's spectacular. This fountain has over 40 water jets shooting out water to over 50 feet in the air. Over 2,200 gallons of water is pumped per minute from an underground reservoir of over 35,000 gallons of water.
In the spring and summertime, if you happen to be outside near 5:00 p.m., you can witness a water show that is synchronized to music which are recordings of the Kansas City Symphony. Every hour and on the hour until 9:00 p.m. this musical event is displayed and on weekends, they occur daily. This is probably the only time when people are not allowed to play in the fountain which has been serving as a cooling off spot for years. Children especially love it!
More Art Work By Tom Corbin
Excellent Video of the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain
More Information About the City of Fountains
This downloadable brochure lists the 32 fountains that are part of the fountain tour.
Information For Fountain Tours
If you plan to visit Kansas City, you might want to check out this Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine article about Kansas City
- Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine: Meet Kansas City - Living and Playing in Kansas City
The in-flight magazine for Southwest Airlines. Spirit Magazine is Playtime, The Best According To..., Sound Smart About..., and more.
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