People invited to lock their love, secrets on fence in Peculiar

One of the locks on the fence.
One of the locks on the fence. Special to The Star

An old city fence, placed underneath Peculiar’s non-functioning water tower, has become a place to lock away a secret or declare your love to a soulmate.

It’s done with padlocks.

“We couldn’t think of a better place,” downtown resident and City Clerk Nick Jacobs said. “Everybody knows us for the three-legged water tower.”

As of midday Monday, 29 padlocks were on display.

The romantic rite of adorning bridges, gates and fences with personalized padlocks became popular in Europe during the early 2000s. The locks symbolize an unbreakable and everlasting love, which is underscored by throwing away the key.

“It’s kind of nifty,” Jacobs said. “It’s peculiar, and that’s what we like about it.”

Jacobs conceived the idea about eight months ago.

Now the 5-foot fence is in the heart of the new Downtown Peculiar Arts and Culture District.

“It’s an interactive piece of public art, which is fun because each individual person has a small part of making the overall picture,” said Brenda Conway, executive director of the downtown arts district.

Jacobs said he persuaded the city's park department to install the unused fence underneath the 50,000-gallon water tower near the intersection of West First and West Broadway streets.

In Peculiar, after locking their secrets or love, people can slip the key into a hole that’s been cut into the tower’s central column.

“You can literally throw away the key,” Jacobs said.

The water tower, built in 1959, went out of commission in May 2006. It’s now a monument in the community, Jacobs said.

The fence was up in time for the art district’s annual Clara Brierly Festival of the Arts during the first weekend in June.

Once the project was completed, Jacobs came up to the fence with his 4-year-old son and hung locks there.

“Now every time we drive by, he wants to stop and look at his lock,” he said.

Jacobs said he was inspired by the film “Now You See Me,” which includes a scene involving a lock fence in Paris.

His hope is that someday, a part of the city’s new trail system will either start at the fence or pass close by. There’s also room near the water tower for additional fencing if needed.

Jacobs wants to install a sign that will identify the fence.

The Downtown Peculiar Arts and Culture District has already been creating a small public art walk throughout the downtown area, Conway said, and the locked fence fits right in with those efforts.

“We’re really thrilled that someone came up with the idea,” Conway said. “When the fence is full, it will be very pretty to look at visually because there will be a lot of different colors, sizes, shapes, and some movement to the locks.”

The lock fence trend has now traveled across oceans, becoming popular in countries all over the globe, including the United States.

“It’s very common in Europe, not so much here,” Conway said.

At least two similar displays exist in the Kansas City area, on the Old Red Bridge in south Kansas City, and in Excelsior Springs at the Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery.