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National World War I Museum

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National World War I Museum

For the building in North Dakota, see Liberty Memorial Building.
Liberty Memorial
Location Kansas City, Missouri

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
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 00001148
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 20, 2006[1]
Designated NHL September 20, 2006[2]

The Liberty Memorial, located in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, is a memorial to the soldiers who died in World War I and houses The National World War I Museum, as designated by the United States Congress in 2004.[3] Groundbreaking commenced November 1, 1921, and the city held a site dedication. The memorial was completed and dedicated on November 11, 1926.

On September 21, 2006, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne declared Liberty Memorial a National Historic Landmark.[4]


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

Memorial Association

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 a Memorial Association and chose lumber baron and philanthropist Robert A. Long, who had personally given a large sum of money, as president.[5] Others included:

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 dollars. There would not be the monetary problems that plagued the Bunker Hill Monument.

It was dedicated on November 11, 1926, by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. In attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony on November 1, 1921, were 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. In 1935, bas reliefs by Walker Hancock of Jacques, Beatty, Diaz, Foch and Pershing were unveiled.

The Memorial and Monument are managed by a non-profit organization[7] in cooperation with the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.[3] 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.[8] They included $170,000 in energy efficiency upgrades to the building as well as improvements to the artificial flame atop the tower.[9] 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.[9]


The design of the building is 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. The main doors at the top of a large set of stairs are made from ornamental bronze, and the walls of the first floor lobby are finished in Kasota stone, which was quarried in Kasota, Minnesota. The first floor corridor and the grand stairway are finished in travertine that was imported from Italy. The floors of the corridors and stairway treads are made from terrazzo and Kasota marble, and the balusters and railing are made from Italian travertine and Italian tavernelle clairemarble.

At night, the top of the memorial tower emits steam illuminated by bright orange lights. This effect creates the illusion of a burning pyre and can be seen for some distance.

The grounds were designed by George Kessler who had rocketed to fame on the strength of his City Beautiful design for the Kansas City park and boulevard system.[10] The road on the west side of the Memorial is Kessler Road.

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."

The National World War I Museum


Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri houses the official World War I museum of the United States. Designated in 2004 by the United States Congress as America's official museum dedicated to World War I, the new museum opened to the public in December 2006. The new subterranean facility was designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates[12] and greatly expands the original facilities that are still housed on the main deck of the Liberty Memorial: Exhibition Hall and Memory Hall.

The National World War I Museum tells the story of the Great War and related global events from their origins before 1914 through the 1918 Armistice and 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Visitors enter the 32,000-square-foot (3,000 m2) facility across a glass bridge above a field of 9,000 red poppies, each one representing 1,000 World War I combatant deaths.[13]

The museum consists of:

  • Two theaters that provide visitors with an educational narrative
  • Exhibitions with period artifacts including:
  • State-of-the-art interactive displays
  • Replica trenches
  • A research center and library carrying 60,000 archival documents and three-dimensional objects and nearly 6,000 library titles
  • Multi-purpose conference room and classroom
  • Museum store
  • The Over There Café

The first part of the museum focuses on the beginning of the Great War pre-U.S. involvement, while the last group of museum galleries focuses on the United States' military and civilian involvement in the war and President Woodrow Wilson's efforts for peace.[15][16]

Throughout the year, the museum hosts special guest lecturers, authors, exhibitions, plays and films related to World War I. Actors Kevin Costner and Louis Gossett Jr. are members of the museum's honorary board.


External links

  • The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial site.
  • Aber, Sarajane Sandusky, "An Architectural History of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri". University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1918-1935.
  • Creighton, Neal, (Maj. Gen. U.S. Army retired), "The Liberty Memorial". Association of the U.S. Army, November 2002.
  • Myers, Richard B., (General, U.S. Air Force; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), "Liberty Memorial Rededication". Kansas City, MO, Saturday, 25 May 2002
  • Liberty Memorial Association, "Murals at Liberty Memorial". 1961 (Photos and description of murals adapted to Memory Hall of the Liberty Memorial in the 1940s-1950s; MacMorris, Daniel) [Kansas City Public Library]
  • Millstein, Cydney, "Historic American Buildings Survery of Liberty Memorial". Architectural and Historical Research, April 1, 2000.
  • Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2006
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