Kansas City’s most notable fountains?
Parks and Recreation Department officials were asked to identify a few of the city’s nearly 50 public fountains significant for their history or beauty:
Ninth Street Fountain, also known as the Women’s Leadership Fountain
Location: Ninth Street and the Paseo.
Built in 1899, it is the oldest public fountain in Kansas City and marks the entrance to the grand Paseo. But it has deteriorated through the decades and is not currently working. A community-based effort, in conjunction with the Central Exchange, is trying to raise the estimated $1.3 million needed to restore it.
J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain
Location: In Mill Creek Park, between J.C. Nichols Parkway and Main Street on 47th Street.
It was dedicated in 1960 to Nichols, a major real estate developer who invested in art and fountains to decorate his projects. The sculptures by French artist Henri Greber were originally part of a formal garden on a Long Island estate. They depict four equestrian figures around a two-tiered basin with children riding dolphins among them. It is perhaps Kansas City’s best loved and most frequently photographed fountain.
Sea Horse Fountain
Location: Meyer Circle, in the median of Ward Parkway at Meyer Boulevard.
Opened in 1925, it is considered the city’s most elaborate fountain. Water streams form intricate designs that mist around statuary depicting mythological beasts and cherubs. Lights at night emphasize the water streams. The fountain was designed by architect Edward Buehler Delk using original sculptures from 17th century Venice. The fountain has been vandalized and repaired many times over the years.
Thomas H. Swope Memorial Fountain
Location: north of the Swope Memorial Golf Course in Swope Park.
Dating to 1922, the fountain features a large bowl with water gently falling into a basin. Set on one of the highest locations in Swope Park, it offers a vista that encourages contemplation and a respect for nature. Recently restored, the fountain is part of the final resting place of the man who gave the park land to the city.
William Volker Memorial Fountain
Location: In Theis Park at Volker Boulevard and Oak Street.
Opened in 1958, it is considered one of the city’s most playful fountains. The sculpture is called “St. Martin and the Beggar” by Carl Milles and includes two angels and a centaur, which appears to be wearing a wristwatch. It was a tribute to local philanthropist William Volker, who died in 1947. It was originally placed on the north side of Brush Creek in the center of the mall below the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Location: In Penn Valley Park, at Pennsylvania Avenue and 31st Street.
Opened in 1991, it is dedicated to Kansas City firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. It was inspired by the deaths of six firefighters in a south Kansas City explosion in 1988. It features two figures amid 48 jets of water that recall the stream from a fire hose.
Location: In Anita Gorman Park, at North Oak Trafficway and Vivion Road.
Opened in 1983, it was the first Kansas City public fountain north of the Missouri River. It is traditional in design and sits on a hill at an important crossroads. It also is one of the few fountains left operating in winter in order to create free-form ice sculptures. The fountain was built with the help of community donations, including pennies from school children.
Sources: The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and the City of Fountains Foundation.
— Matt Campbell