Keeping Our Fountains Flowing
Foundation campaign seeks to protect KC's 'City of Fountains' status.
Our fair city’s reputation as the “City of Fountains” has been an enduring pride point for Kansas Citians. In fact, when it comes to the heart and soul of this city, dancing waters run deep.
With upwards of 200 registered fountains in the Kansas City metropolitan area (not counting the numerous fountains at privately owned corporations, subdivision entrances and private homes and gardens), many consider it a bragging right that Kansas City falls only behind Rome in the number of fountains within the city.
And it was in Rome — at the Trevi Fountain, actually — that Hallmark executive Harold Rice and his wife, Peggy, decided to create the City of Fountains Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted solely to the city’s fountains.
The foundation’s goal in its inception was to raise funds to construct new fountains, manage trust funds to cover fountain maintenance costs, and increase awareness of the importance of Kansas City’s fountains. The foundation, which has long been endorsed by the city council, works in partnership with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department to operate and maintain Kansas City’s 48 publicly owned fountains, some of which are more than 100 years old.
The city’s first fountain, located at 3rd and Minnesota, had a large square pedestal with four small pools from which dogs could drink at street level and a granite basin at horsehead height for the city’s equestrian residents.
However, it was the Country Club Plaza district’s creator, J.C. Nichols, who began integrating decorative fountains into Kansas City’s real estate development to embellish his properties and distinguish them from the industrial downtown landscape in the 1930s.
Today, despite an ongoing love affair with our city’s fountains and their cascading history, some may be shut down if repairs are not made soon.
“While city funding does cover routine maintenance cost for the fountains as passed by the voters in 2012, there is not enough funding allocated in the city’s budget to repair rusty pipes and valves and frayed wiring that is often found in the city’s oldest and most storied fountains,” says Joanie Shields, a foundation board member.
To that end, the City of Fountains Foundation is in the middle of a campaign to raise money for repairing and restoring many of the city-owned fountains. The campaign, titled “Wish Upon A Fountain,” has already raised more than $2 million from major corporations, foundations and philanthropists.
“What started as a $2.6 million request has now increased to $3.2 million to keep our fountains in good, working, restored condition,” says Shields.
In addition, the foundation also would like to raise $270,000 in individual donations for a legacy fund to help keep the fountains flowing for generations to come.
Kansas City fountains with the most pressing restoration needs include:
- The Delbert Haff Memorial Fountain at Meyer Boulevard and Swope Parkway
- The Seville Light Fountain and the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on the Country Club Plaza
- The Westside Fountain at Summit and Southwest Boulevard
- The Spirit of Freedom Fountain at Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Cleveland
- The Seahorse Fountain at Meyer Circle on Ward Parkway
- The Firefighters’ Fountain at 31st St. between Broadway and Southwest Trafficway
- The Children’s Fountain on North Oak at Highway 9 in North Kansas City.
Part of the money raised through the “Wish Upon A Fountain” campaign recently paid for renovations at the Eagle Scout Memorial Fountain at East 39th St. and Gillham Road, where crews repaired the fountain's lights, plumbing, mechanics, walls and landscaping.
The Hall Family Foundation recently donated $500,000 to get the Volker Fountain at Volker Boulevard and Oak Street repaired and operating again.
“As the City of Fountains, our residents cherish our fountains and take real pride and comfort in them,” says the Parks and Recreation Department’s Heidi Downer. “Kansas City's unique and varied water sculptures do more than just give our neighborhoods and public spaces vitality and a special sense of place. They commemorate and celebrate the visions, deeds and generosity of generations of Kansas Citians who helped make so many of our collective wishes come true.”
To make a donation to The City of Fountains Foundation or for more information on Kansas City fountains, visit kcfountains.com.