By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
December 11, 2013
Originally designed as an ornate drinking fountain by noted Kansas City Sculptor Robert Merril Gage, the American Legion Fountain was a fixture at Ninth and Main streets for almost 40 years before being moved to Van Brunt Boulevard and Budd Park Esplanade in the heart of Historic Northeast Kansas City. The elegant limestone fountain consisted of a large, carved basin supporting an eight-foot tall square shaft, topped with eagles on each side. Bronze plaques bearing friezes of American Doughboys in action were inlaid on opposite sides of the shaft. Names of the American Legion Posts and those members who were sacrificed during World War I are carved in stone: “Dedicated by Kansas City to the American Legion Posts, October 31 – November, 1921. William T. Fitzsimmons, Murray Davis, William J. Bland, Joseph Dillon, Arthur Maloney, Sanford M. Brown Jr., James Cummins, Joseph Liebman, Hewitt Swearingen, Wayne Minor.”
The fountain’s location became a topic of controversy during the late 1950s, as pedestrians had to cross busy streets, often risking life and limb in order to fetch a sip or two of cold water. In 1959, the Parks Department moved the fountain to its present location. In 2002 the fountain was struck by an errant motorist, and it was carted off in pieces and stored for repairs. Finally, in May 2006, the American Legion Fountain was returned to public view, fully repaired and restored to its original splendor. Parks Department North Region Manager Michael Herron indicated that over $25,000 was spent on the work, which included masonry and plumbing.
This sepia-toned postcard showing the fountain at its original location was published by John Straley of Kansas City. Straley published a series of black and white postcards of a number of locations throughout Kansas City from his apartment at 213 N. Mersington Ave. here in Historic Northeast.