History of Kansas City's Fountains

For more than 100 years, symbolic equestrian figures, Roman Gods, sea horses, and children have frolicked and danced in fountains large and small throughout Kansas City.

Enthusiasm to design fountains in Kansas City was sparked by George Kessler, a landscape architect and urban planner during the “City Beautiful” movement of the 1890s. This idea was brought to life in 1898 when Kessler designed the City’s first fountain at 15th Street and The Paseo. Although destroyed in 1941, he created a second fountain that same year which still exists and is now located at 9th Street & The Paseo. The Women’s Leadership Fountain is Kansas City’s oldest working fountain. It bears the names of 13 women who made notable contributions to the community.

In 1904, the Humane Society of Kansas City (Kansas) – established to prevent cruelty to women, children, and animals – built a characteristic fountain near the west end of Minnesota Avenue at North 3rd Street in Kansas City, Kansas. Passerbys once filled their containers with fresh, clean water spilling from lions’ mouths before it rushed to a lower basin to refresh overburdened horses. The littlest of animals, primarily cats and dogs, were even treated to freshwater as the overflow then drained into four small street-level pools. The Humane Society successfully mounted more than 100 fountains throughout the city.

In 1910, more than 100 people gathered at 40th and Main Streets for the Frank Faxon Fountain’s dedication. Mr. Faxon,  a prosperous merchant, civic leader, and a former Humane Society Present, coined the slogan “Make Kansas City a good place to live” in 1889 for the Commercial Club, the Chamber of Commerce forerunner. Women members of the Society raised four hundred dollars for the bronze fountain, which was specially designed to be sanitary and prevent any contagious diseases among horses. 

Today, hidden amongst tree-lined neighborhood streets and tucked into tiled walkways, passersby’s still enjoy hundreds of these handcrafted works of art. Various fountains have been donated by local citizens, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, while developers have purchased others.

Each fountain and surrounding sculpture is unique, providing our neighborhoods and public spaces with spirit and tranquil beauty. Individually, each fountain has a personal narrative, stories of significant accomplishments and great loss. Some commemorate and celebrate the visions, good deeds, and generosity of generations of innovative, hardworking Kansas Citians who shaped our city into what it is today.

The City of Fountains Foundation (COFF) was established in 1973 by Hallmark Cards executive Harold Rice, and his wife Peggy, after a trip to Rome, Italy. During their visit, Rice was dishearted to see their fountains deteriorating, broken, and in absolute disrepair. Concerned for Kansas City’s fountains’ future, the couple soon established the City of Fountains Foundation as a 501c3 to ensure ongoing funding and maintenance.

The Foundation’s goal is to manage public and private donations, generate financial support for ongoing maintenance costs, and increase public awareness about the City’s fountains’ significance and importance.

In March 1974, the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council approved a resolution endorsing the City of Fountains Foundation. Today, in partnership with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department and the Foundation’s board of directors, these groups work together to operate and maintain the community’s historic, private, and publicly-owned fountains and sculptures.

Our Fountains Through the Years

These iconic fountains need your support. Are you a Friend of The Fountains?