Following the style of Egyptian Revival architecture, the Liberty Memorial was designed in the early 1920s by H. Van Buren Magonigle. From 1995-2006, Abend Singleton Associates restored the original Memorial to meet national standards for accessibility and security and designed the state-of-the art Museum space and supporting facilities underneath the Liberty Memorial. Ralph Appelbaum Associates designed the innovative and engaging exhibitions in the new gallery space.
Learn about the many architectural and symbolic elements that make the National WWI Museum and Memorial one of Kansas City’s iconic landmarks.
“In honor of those who served in the World War in defense of liberty and our country.”
— Inscription on the Liberty Memorial Tower
Two Assyrian Sphinxes guard the south entrance of the Liberty Memorial. “Memory” faces east toward the battlefields of France, shielding its eyes from the horrors of war. “Future” faces west, shielding its eyes from an unknown future.
Liberty Memorial Tower
The Liberty Memorial Tower rises 217 feet above the main courtyard and 268 feet above the North Lawn. The cylindrical tower is 36 feet in diameter at its base, tapering to 28 feet at the top. Guests can purchase tickets to take an elevator followed by 45 stairs to the open-air observation deck for a breathtaking view of the Kansas City skyline. At night, a Flame of Inspiration, created by steam and lighting effects, is emitted from the top of the tower and can be seen from miles away. The monument received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and recognition from Congress as a national memorial in 2014.
Carved by Robert Aitken and each standing 40-feet tall, four Guardian Spirits watch over the Memorial from the top of the Tower. As protectors of peace, each guardian holds a sword and is named for the virtue it represents: Honor, Courage, Patriotism and Sacrifice.
“Lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen.”
— Old Testament passage inscribed above the bronze doors to Exhibit Hall
Two empty cinerary urns, which traditionally contain the remains of a cremated body, flank the entrance of both Memory Hall and Exhibit Hall. Sculpted from limestone, each urn is decorated with a band of laurel with emblems recognizing each of the branches of service that helped to win the war: the Army and Navy, the Red Cross, Agriculture and Manufacturing and Transportation.
Located on the west side of the Liberty Memorial Tower, Exhibit Hall served as the main museum gallery of the Liberty Memorial from 1926 to 1994. Today, Exhibit Hall serves as gallery space for the Museum and Memorial's limited-run exhibitions. It also contains a surviving section of the Panthéon de la Guerre mural, depicting the figure of Victory in front of a “temple of glory,” surrounded by thousands of French heroes. Colorful flags of the 22 Allied nations of World War I, arranged in the order in which each country entered the conflict, line the north and south walls. The exterior of both Exhibit and Memory Halls are decorated with mosaic tiles that depict a night sky strewn with gold stars. These gold stars represent the sacrifice of the Gold Star Mothers during the Great War.
Located on the east side of the Liberty Memorial Tower, Memory Hall contains a portion of the Panthéon de la Guerre, a monumental French painting depicting the Allied nations of World War I. Additionally, Memory Hall houses bronze tablets listing 441 Kansas Citians who died in World War I, computer kiosks that provide in-depth information about the Liberty Memorial and limited-run exhibitions.
At the northern edge of the grounds near Pershing Road, this stone wall displays the bronze busts of the five Allied leaders at the site dedication on Nov. 1, 1921: Gen. Baron Jacques of Belgium, Gen. Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, Gen. John J. Pershing of the United States and Sir Admiral Earl David Beatty of Great Britain.
The Great Frieze
Located on the North Wall, the Great Frieze measures 148 feet by 18 feet and represents the progression of mankind from war to peace. Sculpted in 1935 by Great War veteran Edmond Amateis, each collected figure or grouping of figures is rich in symbolism. At each end of the Frieze is a sword with the Stars and Stripes representing the defense of our country. The story of the Frieze depicts the end of the war and the creation of an era of greater peace and amity.
“These have dared bear the torches of sacrifice and service: Their bodies return to dust, but their work liveth for evermore. Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
— Inscription on the Great Frieze
In 2006, construction was completed on an 80,000-square-foot expansion to the Museum and Memorial. In the largest of the galleries, visitors enjoy an immersive experience featuring objects and documents from the world’s most comprehensive collection of World War I.
Located on the Research Level and open to the public without a Museum admission ticket, the Ellis Gallery features special exhibitions curated by other institutions from around the globe as well as special exhibitions organized by the Museum and Memorial.
The state-of-the-art Wylie Gallery opened in 2018 and showcases limited-run, special exhibitions curated by organizations throughout the world. To view the most recent exhibition in the Wylie Gallery, view our Exhibitions.