Liberty Memorial: Kansas City, MO
Plans to build a National World War I memorial in Kansas City began before the ink had dried on the Treaty of Versailles. Forty influential residents formed the Liberty Memorial Association in November 1918 with the goal of raising money for such a memorial. In just ten days, the Association raised $2.5 million from 83,000 donors. Two years later, 100,000 people gathered as leaders of the allied armies oversaw the groundbreaking for the monument. When construction was completed in 1926, President Calvin Coolidge returned to dedicate the new memorial before an even larger crowd.
The tower is a 265-foot obelisk topped with an artificial flame. Two sphinxes and two Egyptian Revival-style memorial halls flank the tower on a wide plaza that overlooks the downtown Kansas City skyline. In the United States, Egyptian-influenced architecture has been associated with memorials and public buildings since the early 1800s.
Landscape design continued into the 1930’s under landscape architect George Kessler. In 1935 a frieze wall was completed on the north end of the memorial by Edmond Amateis in an Art Deco style. WPA workers expanded the grounds, planting thousands of trees and updating utilities. Meanwhile the museum, originally housed in the memorial halls, continued to expand its collection, acquiring 350,000 artifacts and approximately the same number of documents.
In 2004, Congress recognized the memorial as the nation's official World War I Museum. To accompany this designation work began on an 80,000 square foot museum expansion underneath the existing memorial. After its completion in 2006, the museum was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2014 Congress additionally recognized the site as the country’s official World War I Memorial.
Andrew Clark Stempel