The City of Fountains
Top Fountains to Visit
Swope Memorial Fountain
Several years ago I started a birthday project where I photographed the same number of fountains as my age. That simple project quickly snowballed into serving our beloved city through the City of Fountains Foundation. Years later, I jokingly modify that awesome Lorax quote by saying, “I speak for the fountains!” They are pretty, but the stories they tell are what interest me the most.
Intercity Horse Trough Fountain
Informally known as the “First Fountain,” this historic water source was intended to be multifunctional. Near the beginning of the 20th century, the KC horse population was seeing steady growth, just like the humans’. However, keeping those horses watered proved to be a big public (equine) health issue. The Humane Society of Kansas City quickly realized that flowing water was healthier for everyone than the stagnant horse troughs scattered around the city. This fountain was their solution! The decorative lion heads provide a stream of water where any human can fill a cup. Those streams flow into the upper basin, that are at the perfect horse drinking height. The overflow then runs into the lower basin, providing thirsty dogs clean water as well. The fountain has been moved around the area over the years as streets and public needs changed. It is now in the care of the Wyandotte County Museum, and after more than a decade of sitting dry, it now flows again! Huzzah! Pack a picnic, enjoy the fountain, then tour the museum and surrounding park. It will be a day well spent.
Woman with Shell
Stressed out? Seek out the Woman with Shell. Sculpted by KC local bronze artist Tom Corbin, this serene woman reminds us to stop for a moment, take a cleansing breath and just enjoy nature. Appropriately, she is tucked inside a magical one-acre garden that makes you believe you are miles away from the city, even though it is just blocks from the Country Club Plaza and three world-class museums (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures). The Kauffman Memorial Gardens are maintained by the botanists at Powell Gardens and have rotating botanic displays year round. While you are there, don’t miss the five other fountains scattered throughout the gardens.
Swope Memorial Fountain
Thomas Swope literally helped shape the boundaries of Kansas City. As a real estate man, he accumulated quite a bit of land in his day, two square miles of which he designated as a park and donated to the city. Swope Park now is one of the largest public city parks in the nation and boasts a variety of amenities. The Swope Memorial is located high on the hill, where the view is spectacular. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the sound of a lion roar is coming from the KC Zoo down the hill or from the two stone lions that watch over the memorial. Before you take off down the century-old stone trail off the side of the memorial, take a moment to notice the eight bronze medallions embedded at the top of the colonnade. Can you spot each of these tree species on your hike?
Owned and maintained by KC Parks, this fountain is one of two that are fully solar powered.
Muse of The Missouri
Please don’t think you can escape our plethora of fountains just by hopping on the free KC Streetcar. The Muse of the Missouri is situated squarely between the North Loop and the Library streetcar stops in the median of Main Street. She quietly watches over her mythical fish as she bestows her guidance on the hustle and bustle of downtown KC. Commissioned as a memorial to David Woods Kemper, who was a local soldier killed in the last days of World War II, it too will remind you to stop for a moment and enjoy all that KC has to offer. Nearby are numerous restaurants, coffeeshops, entertainment venues, bookstores and even a library in an old bank with a giant bookshelf hiding a parking garage! Downtown KC offers something for everyone these days.
Want to learn more about the City of Fountains or the foundation that cares for the watery works of art? Please consider becoming a Friend of the Fountains to help preserve our wonderful collection of public art for generations to come! www.kcfountains.org
Written and photographed by Alexis Webb Bechtold, eco-artist, adventurer and founder of X37Adventures, which focuses on inspiring people to seek out experiences at the intersection of art and adventure. See X37Adventures.com for more information about adventure opportunities.