How many fountains are in Kansas City?

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J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain
J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain

The City of Fountains Foundation has registered 200 fountains in the metropolitan area. This tally does not include the numerous fountains at corporation and sub-division entrances, office atriums, private gardens and homes.

City promotional materials extol the attractions of Kansas City and commonly state that only Rome has more fountains. And it was while sitting next to the Trevi Fountain in Rome that Harold D. Rice and his wife Peggy envisioned the creation of an organization devoted to fountains. On their return to Kansas City, the Rices established the City of Fountains Foundation in 1973. Their vision received enthusiastic support from civic leaders and the city council.

A similar vision to create a Kansas City with "more boulevards than Paris, more fountains than Rome" was shared by earlier Kansas Citians such as August Meyer and George Kessler. In the late 1800s they were instrumental in the establishment of the park and boulevard system that laid the ground work for the many fountains found in the area today.

It was J. C. Nichols, though, who began, soon after the turn of the twentieth century, to implement "that civic vision into a residential reality." He revolutionized real estate development not only in Kansas City but throughout the nation. He decorated his planned communities of intertwined residences and shopping with fountains and outdoor statuary.

Nichols's entrepreneurial expertise created the Country Club Plaza, the nation's first shopping center, an area of the city famous for its fountains. In 1923 the "Boy and Fish Fountain" became the Plaza's first fountain. It was on the traffic island at 47th Street and J. C. Nichols Parkway. Later in 1968 the fountain was relocated to 79th Street and The Paseo. Unfortunately, the boy and fish that once perched on top of the fountain have since disappeared.

The J. C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in Mill Creek Park on the Country Club Plaza commemorates Nichols's contribution to helping make Kansas City the City of Fountains.

For more information search the Local History Index.

Librarian Sherrie Kline Smith
April 2006

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