Neptune, god of the sea, raises his trident and roars through turbulent waters led by three powerful horses. A block away, Bacchus, god of wine, looks down from his grapevine-wrapped pedestal upon a captive audience of nymphs and satyrs. Nearby the beautiful goddess Pomona poses with a cluster of grapes in a sun-drenched courtyard.
No, this isn't Mount Olympus, fabled home of the Greek gods. It's Kansas City. And these are but a few of the hundreds of majestic fountains that make their home in this Midwestern treasure, known as the City of Fountains.
Kansas City is said to be the home of more fountains than any city in the world except Rome. Exactly how many fountains Kansas City has is not known, for public and private fountains are added regularly. It's sort of an unwritten policy that a fountain of some fashion is incorporated into the design of most new commercial building projects in Kansas City. But it's not only the number of fountains that makes Kansas City the City of Fountains, but the craftsmanship and presentation of these celebrations of water. Spending a day leisurely touring these stunning structures adds to the Kansas City experience.
Many of Kansas City's most famous fountains are found on the Country Club Plaza, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The Plaza's streets are adorned with artworks from throughout the world, and the fountains found here are some of the city's most decorative and popular. It's not uncommon to see a just-married bride and groom posing by the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain for a keepsake of their wedding day. The fountain, which is one of Kansas City's signature landmarks, is located at 47th & J.C. Nichols Parkway. The Nichols Fountain's four equestrian figures each represent a famous river of the world. Water sprays 30 feet up from the center of the fountain, a memorial to Plaza developer J.C. Nichols. A walking tour of the Plaza includes the Neptune, Mermaid, and Bacchus fountains, among others.
Nearby is one of Kansas City's oldest fountains, the Rozzelle Court Fountain in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The fountain, which dates from about 200 A.D., is thought to have been one of the imperial baths of Rome. Not originally designed as a fountain, the basin probably held oil used to cleanse the dust of the arena from athletes. The trickling sound of the fountain's flow can be heard throughout this Renaissance-style courtyard.
Many local fountains are also memorials. The Firefighters Fountain, located north of The Plaza at 31st & Broadway, was completed in 1991. It is one of the largest fountains in the city, with an 80-foot diameter basin holding 76,000 gallons of water. Also featured is a memorial terrace with the names of the city's fallen firefighters carved in granite.
The Vietnam Veterans Fountain was dedicated in 1986 to all of those who served in the Vietnam War, with a special salute to veterans from the Kansas City area. It includes a memorial wall with the names of 336 area soldiers killed or missing in action. Located on the east side of Broadway, just south of Westport, the memorial includes a series of reflecting pools and fountains.
One of the city's most spectacular water displays can be found just north of Westport at Crown Center, an office, retail, and entertainment complex housing the international headquarters of Hallmark Cards, Inc. The Crown Center Fountains on the Square are a lively centerpiece of the complex. The fountain occupies 2,000 square feet, consisting of a cobblestone-paved area with no nozzles or plumbing. The water seems to erupt from the ground, propelled by 49 water jets. The fountains shoot some 30 feet in the air and are colorfully lit at night.
Located in North Kansas City is the area's own fountain of youth. The Children's Fountain, dedicated in June 1995, features six bronze sculptures of children playing in the water. Kansas City artist Tom Corbin placed the sculptures over a giant water basin measuring 60 feet by 100 feet. The fountain can be found where North Oak Trafficway and Missouri 9 (Burlington) split.
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