WASHINGTON —Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today designated the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., as a national historic landmark in recognition of its role in memorializing World War I service as well as its notable design.
“The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City is one of the most compelling monuments constructed in honor of those who gave their lives in World War I,” Kempthorne noted. “Its beautiful monument and museum complex exemplifies visionary city planning and architectural innovations of the early 20th century.”
“The Liberty Memorial is an institution in Kansas City and I believe it’s an important institution for the country,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Talent. “This designation will provide well-deserved recognition for Kansas City, which is very proud to have one of the largest World War I collections in the country. I want to thank John Dillingham, Carl DiCapo and everyone at Liberty Memorial who worked hard to make this designation possible and make certain as many Americans as possible have the opportunity to experience the museum.”
Dedicated in 1921 and constructed between 1923 and 1938, Liberty Memorial covers almost 50 acres on the crest of a hill south of Union Station. An imposing central shaft rises from a memorial court flanked by a monumental group of buildings including Memory Hall, the Museum Building, a Great Frieze on the north wall and two colossal Egyptian sphinx-like structures guarding the south entrance to the memorial court.
Originally designed by such architects as H. Van Buren Magonigle, landscape architects George E. Kessler and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr and artists including Robert Aitken and Edmond Amateis, it was restored from 2000-2002 with museum space expanded.
Liberty Memorial remains an important example of American Memorial architecture of the early 20th century—incorporating monumentally scaled Beaux Arts Classicism. Rising more than 217 feet (or 21 stories) above the surrounding plaza, the memorial’s limestone shaft is crowned by a “Flame of Inspiration.” Four “Guardian Spirits of the Flame” sculpted by Aitken each rise 40 feet and weigh 11 tons. They represent honor, courage, sacrifice and patriotism.
The 488-foot-long Great Frieze is characterized by an inscription in bas relief reading:
Those who have dared bear the torches of sacrifice and service—their bodies return to dust but their work liveth for evermore. Let us strive to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
National historic landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction.
In Kansas City, the Mutual Musicians Association Building was designated as a national historic landmark in 1981.The new Liberty Memorial National Historic Landmark brings the total in Missouri to 36.
Working with citizens throughout the nation, the National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service staff who work to nominate new landmarks and provide assistance to existing landmarks. The National Park Advisory Board recommended designation of Liberty Memorial.