Centennial approaches for Liberty Memorial site dedication

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


This week we begin a two-card Historic Postcard series that centers on the dedication of the Liberty Memorial site 100 years ago during the American Legion Convention. Next week, we’ll spotlight The American Legion Fountain that was dedicated during that convention and placed at the corner of 9th and Main Street, just south of the new Westgate Hotel.


The third annual convention of the American Legion was held in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 31, and Nov. 1 and 2, 1921. The convention coincided with the dedication of the Liberty Memorial.


From a field of roughly 15 architectural firms from across the United States, H. Van Buren Magonigle of New York was selected to design the memorial to the “war to end all wars.” In 1919, a huge fund drive was held, and Northeast resident Robert A. Long was elected founding president of the newly-created organization spearheading the drive to construct a memorial to honor the dead from World War I.


Long stated upon his election: “From its inception it was intended that this memorial should represent on the part of all people, a living expression for all time of the gratitude of a grateful people to those who offered and who gave their lives in defense of liberty and our country.”


A little over two weeks later, over $2.5 million had been raised, largely through public subscriptions, for the construction of Liberty Memorial. On Nov. 1, 1921, during the American Legion Convention, the site for the memorial was dedicated in front of more than 200,000 people who had turned out to support the effort. On Nov. 11, 1926, the finished memorial was dedicated and opened to the public.


After a controversial face-lift and restoration in 2003 – 2004, the newly dedicated National World War I Museum opened. The museum painstakingly depicts the daily life of the “Doughboys” during their struggle for liberty “Over There,” during what was referred to as The Great War.
The sepia tone postcard card is an official souvenir from the American Legion Convention held here in Kansas City in 1921, commemorating the site dedication of the Liberty Memorial.


The official description on the reverse of the postcard reads: “The memorial will be across the plaza directly south of Union Station. The shaft at the entrance will be 280 feet high, including the base and at the top will be 342 feet above the water line of the Missouri River. It will be the highest point in Kansas City. Cost: $2,000,000 raised by popular subscriptions.”


The postcard was commissioned by the American Legion and shows the concept that architect H. Van Buren Magonigle had proposed to the city, complete with twin sphinxes on the north side of the monument, descending a grand staircase to a fountain and reflecting pool. Due to cost constraints the north façade was never developed as proposed.

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