Kansas City, MO
The Liberty Memorial, located at 100 W.26th Street on a 47.5-acre tract in Kansas City, Missouri, stands today as one of the nation’s most compelling monuments to honor those who sacrificed their lives during World War I and a remembrance of those who survived. This nationally significant property is one of the most important landmarks in Kansas City and one of the most commanding memorial sites in the nation. After being closed in 1994 due to the dangerous condition of its structural integrity, Liberty Memorial was rehabilitated in 2000-2002 and rededicated in May 2002. The memorial continues in its historic use as a monument to World War I, as well as including a library, archives and museum. Liberty memorial was designated the National World War One Museum of the United States by the United States Senate and House of Representatives, and signed into law by President George W. Bush as part of the FY 2005 defense authorization bill. The Liberty memorial was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
| Fountain at the Memorial
Photograph courtesy of Cookiecaper, through Wikimedia.org
The memorial was designed by multiple architects: Harold Van Buren Magonigle, with Wright and Wright and landscape architects the Olmstead Brothers, George E. Kessler and Hare and Hare. The Liberty Memorial features the imposing central shaft rising from a Memorial Court, flanked by Memory Hall on the east, the Museum Building on the west, and the Great Frieze on the north wall. Other resources associated with Liberty Memorial include the prominent sphinx-like limestone statues placed to the south of the court, paired fountains to the north of the Great Frieze, and the Dedication Wall sited directly south of Pershing Road. The entire complex was constructed between 1923 and 1938. These elements together, present a potent, psychological manifestation relating to and reflecting on the emotional effects of World War I. As World War I was deemed the “War to end all Wars” the very essence of the statement became clear when General John J. Pershing, General John J. Lejeunne, Ferdinand Foch, and Admiral David Beatty, representatives from Belgium, Italy and Serbia attended the dedication site in 1921, along with over 200,000 people.
|| Relief of John Pershing
Photograph by Einar Einarsson Kvaran through Wikimedia.org
Even before the Armistice ending World War I was signed on November 11, 1918, citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, were eager to commemorate the great sacrifice for freedom exerted by the United States against Imperial Germany. The City Council announced a public conference to be held on November 29, 1918. At the Council’s request, R.A. Long, a civic leader and successful lumber salesman, presided over the forum and was authorized by to appoint a committee of 100 and a temporary advisory committee of 150, whose members would meet jointly to initiate the memorial movement. Early on one thing was decided-the Liberty Memorial Association (as it came to be called) wanted a beautiful and original monument. Not only would such a monument express the gratitude and honor Kansas Citizens felt towards their lost ones who sacrificed for peace, but it was also understood that civic beauty reflected civic activity and growth.
The Liberty Association decided the location and planned for two million dollars for construction (a very large sum in the 1920s), and chose the design of architect Harold Van Buren Magonigie. Magonigle's winning design incorporated grand artistic styles of the past, including Egyptian and Greek elements as well as Gothic architecture to symbolize the “idealism that lead the youth to lay upon the altar of their country, the flaming torch of self sacrifice.” Magonigle’s inspired plan, rendered to perfection, detailed a grand tower rising 401’ on the hill south of the Station Plaza, which was to symbolize a Flame of Inspiration, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Many economic decisions made later resulted in a more simplified and austere, but nonetheless beautiful monument. George E. Kessler was made responsible for the grounds around the monument. Construction began in 1925. While further budget cuts and additions to the landscape design, a change in the leadership of the Liberty Memorial Association, and other factors, Liberty Memorial was finally completed in 1938. The landscaping on the site includes groves of trees at the south end of the Mall, sweeping and expansive lawns throughout the site, and a cluster of seven junipers located near the fountain on the east side of the large stairs. At the northern edge of Liberty Memorial, sited 150’ south of Pershing Road, is a slightly curved Dedication Wall commemorating the site dedication held on November 1, 1921. Carved into each end of the wall are two quotes; one from John J. Pershing and another by Woodrow Wilson. The authors’ names are placed at the bottom right of each inscription. Pershing’s quote, placed to the west of the portrait grouping, reads:
"IN DEDICATION OF THIS MEMORIAL LET US
PLEDGE OUR LIVES TO GOD AND COUNTRY
MAY THE DEVOTION OF THOSE WHO
ANSWERED THE CALL OF DUTY IN THE
SUPREME CRISIS OF WAR PROVE AN ABIDING
INSPIRATION TO LOYALTY AND HIGH ENDEAVOR"
|| Woodrow Wilson
Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress
The quote from Wilson placed to the east states:
"THE GLORY OF AMERICA GIVES DEEPER THAN
ALL THE TINSEL GOES DEEPER THAN THE
SOUND OF GUNS AND THE CLASH OF SABERS
IT GOES DOWN TO THE VERY FOUNDATION OF THOSE THINGS THAT HAVE MADE
THE SPIRIT OF MAN FREE HAPPY AND CONTENT"
Read the entire National Historic Landmark File online