National World War I Memorial

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For the building in North Dakota, see Liberty Memorial Building.
National WWI Museum and Memorial
Liberty Memorial 2008.jpg
Location Kansas City, Missouri
Coordinates 39°04′49″N 94°35′10″W / 39.08028°N 94.58611°W / 39.08028; -94.58611Coordinates: 39°04′49″N 94°35′10″W / 39.08028°N 94.58611°W / 39.08028; -94.58611
Built 1926
Architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle, Westlake Construction Company
Architectural style Beaux Arts Classicism, Egyptian Revival
NRHP Reference # 00001148
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 20, 2006[1]
Designated NMEM September 20, 2006[2]

The Liberty Memorial, located at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, is a memorial to service men and women who served in World War I.[3] Fundraising began October 1919 and groundbreaking commenced on November 1, 1921, when the city held a site dedication. The memorial was completed and dedicated on November 11, 1926.[4]

On September 21, 2006, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne declared Liberty Memorial a National Historic Landmark.[5] On December 19, 2014, President Barack Obama signed legislation recognizing the Liberty Memorial as a national memorial.[6]


The memorial, located within Penn Valley Park, was designed by Harold Van Buren Magonigle who won a national design competition. Several sculptors, including Robert Aitken were involved. The approaches were designed by Wight and Wight.

Liberty Memorial Association[edit]

By the time World War I ended on November 11, 1918, many citizens of Kansas and Missouri had lost their lives and a movement to build a monument for their sacrifices and the surviving veterans arose. A group of 40 prominent citizens formed the Liberty Memorial Association and chose lumber baron and philanthropist Robert A. Long, who had personally given a large sum of money, as president.[7] Others included:

Commemorative ceremonies at the Liberty Memorial, c. 1940.
Commemorative ceremonies at the Liberty Memorial, c. 1940

The city council appointed the association to look into the possibility of a monument and funding. In less than a year, the association had spearheaded a fund drive that included 83,000 contributors and collected more than $2.5 million. There would not be the monetary problems that plagued the Bunker Hill Monument.

In attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony on November 1, 1921, were then-Vice President Calvin Coolidge, Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral Earl Beatty of Great Britain, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, and General John Pershing of the United States, along with sixty thousand members of the American Legion; the local veteran chosen to present flags to the commanders was a Kansas City haberdasher, Harry S Truman,[9] who would later serve as President of the United States. The finished monument was dedicated on November 11, 1926, by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, in the presence of Queen Marie of Romania.[10] In 1935, bas reliefs by Walker Hancock of Jacques, Beatty, Diaz, Foch and Pershing were unveiled.

The Museum and Memorial are managed by a non-profit organization in cooperation with the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.[3][11] In 1981, the building underwent a major renovation which updated existing systems to modern code specifications. Another substantial renovation, with a cost estimate of $5 million was undertaken beginning in December 2011.[12] They included $170,000 in energy efficiency upgrades to the building as well as improvements to the artificial flame atop the tower.[13] After several months of dormancy the flame was "relit" on February 1, 2013. Other portions of the overall renovation included security upgrades along with repairs to certain limestone sections and brush removal.[13]


The national design competition was managed by Thomas R. Kimball a former president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) according to National AIA rules. A disagreement between members of the Kansas City Chapter of AIA and Kimball over the rules, caused almost half of the local members to resign in April 1922. They immediately went on to form the Architectural League of Kansas City, which was merged back into the AIA in the early 1930s. Unlike the AIA at the time, the Architectural League of Kansas City provided membership to less experienced architects and draftsmen and provided social and educational opportunities as well. Regardless of the controversy, many local architects submitted entries including those who resigned from the AIA. The jury, however, was unanimous in their decision to award the contract to New York architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle.[14]

The Liberty Memorial was designed in the classical Egyptian Revival style of architecture with a limestone exterior. The foundation was constructed using sawed granite, and the exterior ground level walls are made of Bedford stone. Further construction occurred in 2000 for expanded National World War I Museum. At night, the top of the 217-foot (66 m) tall memorial tower emits a "flame effect", steam illuminated by bright red and orange lights. This effect creates the illusion of a burning pyre and can be seen for some distance. Overall, the memorial rises 265 feet (81 m) above the surrounding area.

The grounds were designed by George Kessler who rocketed to fame on the strength of his City Beautiful design for the Kansas City park and boulevard system.[15] The road on the west side of the Memorial is Kessler Road.

The Great Frieze by Edmond Amateis.[16] Main inscription reads "These have dared bear the torches of sacrifice and service. Their bodies return to dust but their work liveth evermore. Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

National World War I Museum[edit]

The logo of the new museum

In 2004, the Liberty Memorial Museum was designated by the United States Congress as the National World War I Museum of the United States. The expanded facility opened to the public in December 2006 showcasing the artifact collection that began in 1920. The new subterranean facility was designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates and greatly expanded the original facilities of Exhibit Hall and Memory Hall, located on the main courtyard.[17] On December 19, 2014, President Barack Obama signed legislation recognizing the Liberty Memorial as a national memorial, which effectively redesignated the Museum as the National World War I Museum and Memorial.[6]

See also[edit]


Liberty Memorial at night

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]