In the City of Fountains, there is one particular fountain that is most famous, and most often the subject of photographs! The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, dedicated in 1960, has a unique history.
J.C. Nichols, full name Jesse Clyde Nichols, was a major developer in Kansas City, living from 1880 to 1950. The Country Club Plaza, one of the first suburban shopping centers, was his design. This shopping plaza remains a popular shopping area today. This was the first shopping area designed for people arriving in vehicles!
This fountain began in Paris in 1910, by French sculptor Henri Greber. It was then transported to Roslyn, New York, where it was dubbed the MacKay fountain. This fountain became the centerpiece for large formal gardens until 1949. A large fire occurred in 1938, destroying the estate, and at some point the figures on the fountain were also vandalized. The figures were sold in 1951 for salvage. The Nichols family brought those figures to Kansas City.
The family had begun plans for the memorial, but it would not be until 1957 that the Parks Department donated the land, sidewalks, and landscaping. Money was also donated by the Nichols family and other friends to repair the damage done to Greber’s figures, and bring the fountain back to working order. The fountain was installed at the Country Club Plaza, made famous by Nichols, and was dedicated in1960 as the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.
The fountain features an 80 foot in diameter pool, with four mounted figures standing, over 10 feet tall, around a two tiered basin in the center of the pool. The figures meaning is not clear, but thought to represent the four great rivers of the world: Seine, Rhine, Mississippi, and Volga. The Mississippi River figure is a Native American throwing a spear at an alligator. There are also smaller figures of children riding dolphins around the central basin. The water shoots over 30 feet high, from the center of the fountain, while the dolphins shoot water into the center of the fountain.
The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain is one of the most recognized water fountains in Kansas City. Often just-married couples will have their pictures taken in front of the fountain. The fountain is a wonderful tribute to the man that had much impact on the look of Kansas city, and it is even more fitting that it is placed in the plaza, one of Nichols best achievements!