March 10, 2011

J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain – Kansas City, MO

Kansas City is the “City of Fountains” and if there is one fountain that encapsulates the meaning of that title, it is the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain. It is easily the most famous and most frequently photographed fountain in the entire city.

Although the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain is a Kansas City landmark, it has an extensive and colorful history before it came home to the City of Fountains. The fountain was originally made in 1910 in Paris by French sculptor Henri Greber.

Later, it was moved to Long Island, New York where it adorned the estate of Clarence Mackay until 1949. (Fun Fact: Mackay disinherited his daughter when she married Irving Berlin against his wishes. You may know Berlin as one of the greatest American composers of the 20th century, writing such classics as “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business”). The fountain became the centerpiece of the large formal gardens and was known as “The Mackey Fountain.” But during that time, the estate was destroyed by fire and the figures of the fountain were vandalized. In 1951, the figures were sold for salvage.

Members of the Nichols family purchased the figures and transported them to Kansas City. The fountain was refurbished and dedicated in 1960 to J. C. Nichols, the developer of the Country Club Plaza. (Fun Fact: The Country Club Plaza was the first suburban shopping area in the United States.)

The J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain consists of a large pool with a two-tiered basin at the center. The 80-foot diameter pool is encircled by four equestrian figures standing over a ten feet high. The four equestrian figures, representing four rivers: the Mississippi River, the Volga River, the Seine and the Rhine. I’m not sure which river is represented by each figure, but I do know the Mississippi River is represented by the Indian riding the horse fending off an alligator. At the center of the fountain is a two-tiered basin that shoots water up to thirty feed in the air and around the central basin are figures of children riding dolphins that shoot water towards the center.

If you're traveling through Kansas City or talking a stroll through the Plaza, be sure to stop and see the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain. It may have began in France and New York, but now it is part of the beautiful City of Fountains.

Total Time Traveled: 2 hours
Total Distance Traveled: 85 miles
Soundtrack: "Jukebox" Cat Power


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