Don’t miss a visit to the National World War I Museum — it’s history at its finest.
Guest blogger Kimberly Winter Stern (@kimdishes) encourages visitors to Kansas City and residents on both sides of the state line not to make the same mistake she did since moving here almost 25 years ago: miss out on experiencing the spectacular National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. It’s a must-see for young and old — the well-curated historical exhibits and films teach valuable lessons for this and future generations. The Museum’s unprecedented collection of authentic objects from the mighty conflict tell the story of the so-called Great War and are spellbinding and memorable; the displays are well conceived and thoughtful, making the entire experience accessible and — if you let it be — life-changing.
Dennis Cross pauses on the footbridge suspended over a field of vibrant red poppies in the National World War I Museum. He peers up to the glass ceiling, looking at the Egyptian Revival-style Liberty Memorial Tower that looms hundreds of feet above, soaring upward to the blue sky.
“I remember when I first saw the Liberty Memorial Tower,” recalled Cross, a retired Kansas City attorney, proud Navy man and volunteer at the Museum.
“I was coming into Kansas City with my parents, on a train into Union Station. There were hundreds and hundreds of people bustling around there. And then we came outside and I looked up to the hill and saw this majestic tower. It made an impression on me.”
Cross was a mere 5-year-old boy when he first caught a glimpse of the structure that is a breathtaking element on Kansas City’s distinctive skyline. Today, decades later, his passion is volunteering at the celebrated National World War I Museum, helping keep history alive to countless schoolchildren, military members, veterans and the general public who visit each year.
As Cross makes his way across the footbridge, he motions to the 9,000 poppies planted in an expansive field underneath.
“Each poppy represents 1,000 lives lost in World War I,” Cross momentarily stops his dialogue to let the full significance of that number sink in.
“That equals 9 million,” he said softly.
The National World War I Museum is as much about a world that descended into bloody combat one week during the summer of 1914 as it is about a city whose populace was determined to erect a structure honoring the men and women who served in the war.
In 1919, soon after the Treaty of Versailles was signed that signaled the end of World War I, the ambitious citizens of Kansas City raised more than $2.5 million in 10 days (today’s equivalent of approximately $34 million) to build the Liberty Memorial.
Perched on a hilltop with beautiful vistas of Kansas City, the site was dedicated as the Liberty Memorial Museum in 1921 by the supreme Allied Commanders, in front of more than 100,000 people. It was the first time in history that the five leaders appeared together in one place.
In 1926, more than 150,000 people gathered to witness the dedication of the monument by President Calvin Coolidge. Read more