Whether you're at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza or taking a drive down a boulevard, you won't miss seeing a popular fountain--some of the most beautiful and artistic fountains offer spectacular visual appeal. There are 200 fountains registered with the City of Fountains Foundation and this does not include all the fountains.
The History Behind the Fountains
For more than 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. Having lived in the Kansas City area since age 13, I have seen many.
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 in books. 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 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 (1855-1941). 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 later relocated to the Plaza area in Kansas City in 1957.
The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain is named after Jesse Clyde Nichols, a noteworthy Kansas City, Missouri real estate 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 has four very large bronze equestrian creations, each represents 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 Country Club Plaza on a sunny afternoon, you'll find yourself sitting on a bench in front of a fountain because it's just plain relaxing. So, why does Kansas City have so many fountains? In the late 1800s, fountains were implemented to feed animals, chiefly horses because there were so many of them. 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.
In the suburb I live in, there is the Northland Fountain (see below image) which is running all year long. Sadly, when winter falls, the fountains are shut down to keep from freezing except for the Northland Fountain which never stops spraying its water and during freezing temperatures, it looks like a spectacular piece of icy art!
The fountains even depict certain events in Kansas City. When the Kansas City Royals baseball team has their season opener, you can see some of the fountains around the city spewing out blue water. Likewise, pink water sprays out to recognize October's National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Another one of my favorite fountains sits between the Liberty Memorial and Union Station and was right down the street from where I used to work. The Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain is a tributary landmark dedicated to the late Mr. Bloch who was one of the founders of a tax preparation company known as H&R Block. Interestingly, once you see the water movements of this fountain, although it is not choreographed with music as was the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, Nevada, you will soon realize both were designed by the same company: WET Design.
The Children's Fountain
This fountain erected in 1995 is another favored one. 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 Fountain at Crown Center Square
The conditions of winter 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 are 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.
If you are a Kansas City resident or a visitor and want to see many of the registered fountains including further details, see https://cityoffountains.org/ that also includes a brochure outlining a fountain map.
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