Kansas City Star Press
Lest The Ages Forget
by Derek Donovan
This new edition of "Lest the Ages Forget: Kansas City's Liberty Memorial" tells the story of the national monument to World War I, updated to include the creation of the prestigious National World War I Museum.
In this industrious agricultural metropolis, a group of community leaders led an ambitious campaign in 1919 to raise money for the construction of a lasting tribute in stone for the brave men and women who served their country in the Great War.
In only 10 days, and in the middle of a deadly influenza epidemic, Kansas Citians gave generously to the fund drive, whose slogan was "Lest the Ages Forget." The final tally came to over $2.5 million, of which $2 million would go to construct the Liberty Memorial.
A national competition led to the selection of New York architect H. Van Buren Magonigle. His designs of a massive limestone shaft, mysterious sphinxes and stately frieze wall won unanimous approval by the competition jury. Construction began in 1921, marked by a lavish site dedication ceremony attended by General John J. Pershing of the United States, Admiral Lord Earl Beatty of Great Britain, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, and Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium. It was the first and only time these five Allied commanders gathered together in one place.
Towering above Kansas City from its hill at Main and Pershing, Liberty Memorial became on of Kansas City's most prominent landmarks. Acclaimed architect Edward Durell Stone, designer of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, and the U.S. pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair hailed the monument in 1961 as "one of the country's great memorials, in a class with the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials."
The memorial has been restored to Magonigle's original luster, and the new National World War I Museum draws accolades for its carefully curated collection and emotionally resonant exhibits. Through historic and contemporary photographs, newspaper accounts and memorabilia, "Lest the Ages Forget" documents Liberty Memorial's proud beginnings, slow decline into disrepair, and its triumphant restoration and expansion.
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