Fountains, Kansas City, MO
One thing always comes to my mind when I think of Kansas City, and it isn’t barbecue: It’s the fountains. With 200 registered public fountains in the metropolitan area, Kansas City claims to have the second-highest number of public fountains anywhere in the world, falling short only next to Rome, Italy. That number also doesn’t include private fountains and business-owned fountains, which could probably easily add another hundred to the tally. I took a stroll over the weekend and then a brief drive down one of the main streets, and returned with pictures of 24 different fountains from that trip alone. Even as I type this, I’m nagging friends to help me narrow down pictures, because I can’t fit them all into one post.
The famous Kansas City slogan, dating to the 19th century, is, “more boulevards than Paris, more fountains than Rome.” Public parks, plazas, statues, and of course fountains make Kansas City a beautiful city to walk in, full of green spaces and falling water. In 1973, the City of Fountains Foundation was established to encourage the purchase, installation, and upkeep of fountains in Kansas City. If you’re on foot, fountain central is the Country Club Plaza, which trivia experts might know as the first shopping center in the U.S., established in 1922. Walking up and down the streets, you’ll find fountains on corners, on sidewalks, tucked into alcoves, and in courtyards, placed in front of stores or set into the walls in between them.
The fountains in Kansas City come from all over the world. The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, with its plunging horses representing major rivers of the world (the Missouri is shown here, complete with alligator), was originally built in Paris in 1910. The Meyer Circle Sea Horse Fountain came from Venice in the 1920s, where it was first built in the 1700s. The Neptune Fountain, aboard his chariot and with trident to hand, was made in 1911 and brought over from England. ‘A Mind Soothed’ within the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is formed around an Italian marble basin that weighs 4 tons and dates mind-bogglingly to 200 C.E.
Some of the city’s fountains honor its natives: The Vietnam Veterans Fountain was designed as a memorial to those from the area who died in that conflict, and the Firefighters Fountain was raised as a tribute to all firefighers; particularly 6 who died in an explosion in 1988. Many other fountains serve as memorials to Kansas City natives or family members.
You can see the water in the fountain turn different colours on some special days, such as holidays or local events. For the start of breast cancer awareness month, the water is dyed pink. For some of the local sports events, the water turns red. For Irish Fest, all of the fountains on the Crown Plaza go green. And on the second Tuesday in April, Greater Kansas City Fountain Day sees all of the publicly-operated fountains come to life at once, officially bringing spring to the city.