Iconic KCMO Fountains


WRITTEN BY: Heidi Markle

It’s no surprise that Kansas City actually has a fountain season. After all, this is a city of fountains and this noteworthy designation is well known far and wide. But the majesty of the 2018 fountain season is going to be highlighted by the spectacular return of the Meyer Circle Sea Horse Fountain and the Spirit of Freedom Fountain -- two iconic fountains that have long been dormant.

Both of these magnificent landmarks will resume their respective splendor thanks to public-private partnerships and KCMO voters.

The high-profile Sea Horse Fountain was actually reenergized for a few weeks at the very end of the 2017 fountain season. On Oct. 25, neighbors, community leaders and fountain enthusiasts united to celebrate the long-awaited rededication. The large and diverse crowd that gathered for the ceremony represented all ages from all over the Kansas City metropolitan area. With cameras rolling, crowds cheering and horns honking, the City celebrated as the fountain came back to life.

Renovations were funded by a grass-roots, bi-state, neighborhood initiative that began in 2016 and raised nearly $600,000 in donations to establish an endowment and supplement the City’s $660,000 for rehabilitation of this Ward Parkway fountain.

The fountain, which had sat dry for two years, required extensive repairs -- rebuilding the underground vault required the pump, motor and electrical systems be replaced along with additional refurbishments to the circular pool basin, water pipes and jets and masonry. With the addition of perimeter lighting, LED fountain lighting, improved waterproofing for the basin, and a heavy-duty door for the underground pump room, renovations were complete.

The statues in the historic fountain weigh 8 tons and date back to the 1700s where they stood for 300 years in a Venetian square. The figures were brought over from Italy in the early 1920s. An 80-foot diameter pool was constructed and the statuary mounted on the central pedestal in 1925. The fountain is named for the three mythological sea horses perched atop the stone pyramid.

On Dec. 8, the Spirit of Freedom Fountain began its journey of renovation as the 5,000-pound center sculpture was removed so that fountain repairs could commence. The $865,000 renovation is funded by $750,000 in General Obligation bonds, with the remaining money coming from the Public Improvement Advisory Committee and private donations. The project is one of several approved by the City Council for the first year of the $800 million in GO KC projects which voters approved last April.

Renovations include cleaning the sculpture and replacing the fountain pump, piping, and lighting in and around the fountain. Additionally, the sub-structure will be strengthened, granite steps cleaned and replaced where needed, new bubblers placed in the fountain basin, and updating ADA access to current standards. The renovations are on target to be completed and the sculpture returned in time for Fountain Day 2018.

Located at Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard at Cleveland Avenue, the Spirit of Freedom Fountain features a metallic free-form sculpture designed by Richard Hunt. The monument sits on a pedestal in the middle of an elliptical shaped retaining pool with raised platforms that support the artwork. Water pours from the base of the platform and there are six clusters of water jets inside the basin. It was dedicated in 1981 to honor the contributions of African-Americans in Kansas City and in memory of former City Councilman Bruce R. Watkins.

A third fountain, Delbert J. Haff, located at the entrance to Swope Park, will begin GO KC-funded renovations this spring. A new concrete floor will be poured and raised, thereby reducing the amount of water in the pool by 50 percent. Spray nozzles will be increased from three to seven and LED colored lighting added. Rounding out the much-needed repairs is the installation of fountain equipment and vault, an ADA entrance and replacement of concrete and stonework around the fountain. The renovations are anticipated to be complete by the end of summer.

For more information on GO KC projects, visit kcmo.gov/gokc.

For information on KC Parks, visit kcparks.org or find us on Twitter @kcmoparks.