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Tuesday, February 03, 2015


Kansas City, Missouri Kansas City, Kansas was beautiful in December.  At three different sections of the city, buildings outlined in bright holiday lights reflect the sparkling joy of the season.  We came not as tourists but to attend Jen’s graduations, we had a scant three days to enjoy the city with our family, and thanks to Michael and Jen’s guidance, we made the most of it.

Of course there was a lot of just being together for the first time since July, but we really packed in the touring too. 

Kansas City, Missouri
This was the former prison at Ft. Leavenworth.
Look at that guardhouseat the end of the wall.
We took a brief drive through part of the very famous Ft. Leavenworth, the oldest active military base west of the Mississippi River.

It’s  much more than the prison that is the reason for its fame, and as it turned out, we never did see the prison complex that is used today.  It’s at a far end of this large military installation. We did, however, enter the building that WAS the prison years ago although today it houses, among other much more gentle things, an art framing studio.  The door to the building, however, is a very solid reminder of what once was located where we stood.  Very solid. 

Kansas City, Missouri
Guess this door might be an unpleasant
reminder to some

We passed the military cemetery too, rows and rows of reminders that the men and women who walked these Ft. Leavenworth grounds and now rest here are those who protected our freedoms—some making the ultimate sacrifice.  It’s a beautiful cemetery, very peaceful and open.

Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
National World War I Museum
The Liberty Tower stands 217 feet high
Notice the giant sculptures on either side of the tower.
Each one is a Sphinx, eyes covered

Kansas City, Missouri is also the home of the National World War I Museum, and it is an institution not to be missed.  Trip Advisor rates it the #1 attraction in the city, and some reviews rate this museum as one of the most comprehensive museums in the country. There’s no doubt in my mind why.  

It is designed so well that any visitor will get a good idea of what led up to the Great War, why it was truly a World War, why the United States became involved, and how the war affected the world to come.  

It’s all done in creative and interesting ways: exhibits involving WWI artifacts in the forms of vehicles, weapons, and uniforms, for instance, dioramas, videos, interactive exhibits, and a constantly changing program of special exhibitions, discussions, videos, etc.  When we were there, mid-December, they announced a special program pre-viewing the new season of Downton Abbey! If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you know the connection.  That’s something I would have loved to attend!

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri
ye old Ford
Kansas City, Missouri
a fighter plane
Kansas City, Missouri
Some of these insignias are still used in today's Army
Kansas City, Missouri
This diorama was used in conjunction with a terrific video presentation
Kansas City, Missouri
Aren't these marvelous!
Decorative envelopes become art work bringing letters from home to cheer the weary soldier at the front
Kansas City, Missouri
A foggy day in Kansas City from the Memorial Court
Guides at the museum are friendly and knowledgeable, and the entrance fee includes a trip to the top of the Liberty Memorial Tower.  The view from the top of the tower over Kansas City is amazing in nicer, clearer weather than we had, but it was still worth going up.  On the flat roof up there, called the Memorial Court, we saw a wedding party using the view as a backdrop for photographs.

Fundraising for the museum's construction began in 1919 soon after the end of the war.  Money came in quickly.  Groundbreaking and dedication was in 1921 and attended by luminaries from around the world including then Vice President Calvin Coolidge.  Present were 60,000 American Legion members and a Kansas City haberdasher named Harry Truman.

The building is an example of Egyptian Revivalist architecture, and looming overall are two colossal sphinx-like statues.  They are on the Memorial Court, and their symbolism is very moving.  To give you a better idea of size, each weighs 615 tons.  They epitomize the mood of the museum, built soon after the war and remembering the tremendous sacrifice so many made.

Kansas City, Missouri

One sphinx is named “Memory.  It is on the southwest side of the court facing east toward Flanders Field.  It hides its head to forget the pain and suffering of war. 

On the southeast side, “Future” covers its head and faces west.  It covers its head to symbolize the cynicism and skepticism of things to come. 

These sculptures were dedicated in 1925, and certainly are as symbolic in today’s world as they were so soon after the War to End All Wars.

Kansas City, Missouri
Rising above the Memorial Court is the Tower. Into the base of the tower are sculpted four Guardian Spirits representing Honor, Courage, Sacrifice, and Patriotism.  Each includes a symbolic element.  Honor is characterized by a wreath; Courage by a helmet; Patriotism by a civic crown; and Sacrifice by a winged star on the forehead.  Each figure also carries a sword, representative of necessary military guardianship.  Believe me, it is awesome, quite moving, and very sad.

There is so much more to the museum including, as you enter, a glass bridge through which you see fields of poppies, and you are, of course reminded of John McCrae’s 1915 poem which begins:

“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

Kansas City, Missouri
The glass bridge over the field of poppies
This is how you enter the museum
It certainly sets a solemn mood.

It’s a museum to visit often, and our short time did not give us an opportunity to appreciate all it has to offer.  But should you visit Kansas City, know that this is a must-see destination.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so with all the things to do and see in Kansas City, we had to have a celebratory dinner at a great place, so off we went to Cooper’s Hawk, right in the middle of a city celebrating the season.  I’ll write about Kansas City at night in Part II.
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