Restoring a Fountain of Leadership


Rehab/Restoration Case Studies

Restoring a Fountain of Leadership

Hoffman Cortes Contracting Co. Foreman Doug Norbury led the charge to restore Kansas City, Mo.’s, oldest working fountain, the Women’s Leadership Fountain.

Women’s Leadership Fountain
Photography by Linda Misenheimer

The Women’s Leadership Fountain is the oldest working fountain in Kansas City, Mo., located off 9th Street and Paseo Boulevard. The inspiration for the fountain came from George Kessler, a historic landscape architect who, in 1889, approached the City of Kansas City, Mo., Parks and Recreation Board Architect John Van Brunt to design a 9th Street fountain as an entry piece for Paseo Boulevard, which was under construction.

Kessler and Van Brunt decided on a simple, oval design with a limestone basin and nozzles in the center of the basin’s pool, where water shoots up in the air. The fountain was surrounded by a raised sidewalk, floor garden, gas lamps and a balustrade that cost $4,115 to construct.

In the 1940s, the fountain stopped working, but it was repaired in 1970 and, again, in 1990. The renovation in the 1990s was possible through the Central Exchange, which led efforts to raise the $125,000 needed to properly restore the fountain. For the Central Exchange’s efforts, the fountain was renamed the “Women’s Leadership Fountain,” and the names of the 12 women who made the restoration possible were inscribed on it.

Unfortunately, this restoration did not hold. In January 2008, restoration of the fountain began again. The Central Exchange came together with Kansas City Parks and Recreation, Ollie Gates and several other prominent Kansas City residents to raise $1.3 million for a complete renovation that included the foundation, its plumbing, and Meyer and Fitz-Simmons monuments, located nearby. Vannom Construction was hired as the general contractor and quickly brought in Hoffman Cortes Contracting Co. and Susan Richards Johnson & Associates Inc. (architects), to revive the historic fountain.

The Women’s Leadership Fountain was a complex project. The team that renovated the fountain in 1970 replaced several damaged pieces with cast stone, and those replacements were deteriorated to a point of no repair. The owner, the Parks and Recreation Department, wanted the fountain restored to the original 107-year-old fountain using Indiana limestone.

Limestone not only is expensive, but also is difficult to find. Not to mention, the decorative elements included in the fountain were difficult to duplicate.

Chuck Scammell with Hoffman Cortes recalled using Indiana limestone on a previous project and knew exactly what to do. First, he contacted Sturgis Materials to locate a quarry that produced this type of limestone, matching the remaining pieces of the fountain. Next, Hoffman Cortes and Susan Richards Johnson found a fabricator that could produce finny holes – or decorative pieces – almost identical to the original ones.

The project team was creative during the installation, because they wanted the fountain to look as seamless as possible. They demolished select pieces of the fountain, and then incorporated the salvaged pieces back into the fountain. Once this was finished, they replaced the baluster system, and the fountain was once again running.

The Women’s Leadership Fountain was delivered under budget and on time, which resulted in an extremely happy owner. Through creativity and resourcefulness, the oldest working fountain in Kansas City is in working order. In February 2009, a dedication ceremony was held, and the Women’s Leadership Fountain flowed once again.

For more information, visit

Owner: Parks and Recreation Department, City of Kansas City, Mo.
Architect: Susan Richards Johnson and Associates Inc.
GC: Vanum Construction
Masonry Restoration Contractor: Hoffman Cortes Contracting Co.
Stone Supplier: Sturgis Materials Inc.

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