Seville fountain has a long and sad history

Sadly, we did not have a winner in our latest – and final – fountain contest.

But the Seville light fountain at 47th Street and JC Nichols Parkway should not be forgotten.

It has a long and sad history and now stands as the only city fountain that does not function at all. It will also be the most costly to repair – to the tune of $500,000.

It is among eight fountains that the City of Fountains Foundation is trying to raise $2.7 million to repair.

The 1985 book, “Fountains of Kansas City – a History and Love Affair,” told its story before its fall:

In 1966, the JC Nichols Co. offered to give the city a replica of a fountain in the Plaza de Los Reyes in Seville Spain. The company would pay $32,000 for the fountain to be placed on a traffic island belonging to the city.

The gift had to be approved by the Municipal Arts Commission, which was concerned the fountain would be too big and diminish the “Plaza effect.” The fountain got approved by a tight 4-3 vote.

Nichols Company commissioned New York sculptor and designer Bernhard Zuckerman to make an exact replica of the Seville fountain. Built in his Italian studio, it has a 30-feet tall central shaft six feet square at the base, contained within a reflecting pool of about 20 feet square and two feet deep.

Water flowed from mouths of four masked faces on sides of the shaft into scalloped basins that overflow into the pool.

The masks are carved from white Ravaccione marble from Carrara, with other marbles used in other parts of the work.

Underwater floodlights provided enough heat for the fountain to operate year-round.

On Oct. 12, 1967, it was dedicated as part of the eastern gateway to the Plaza “in the spirit of friendship and goodwill which unites our Sister Cities: Seville Spain and Kansas City, Missouri.”

Among those present then was Felix Moreno de la Cova, the mayor of Seville.

Fast forward to spring of 2006, when the city found that the vault beneath it flooded continually and its electrical panels were damaged. Officials decided it was too dangerous and costly to turn on and keep running.

As of last week, the city listed $500,000 in estimated repairs:

-Construct a new vault next to the fountain instead of beneath it for new plumbing and mechanical systems and safer access.

-Install a new electrical service panel above ground.

-Repair cracks and stone, clean and seal stone.

-Repair cracks in bowls to prevent more ice damage and replace waterproof coating.

-Clean and conserve bronze light element on top of structure and replace light fixtures and lights in basin with LED lighting.

-Replace pavement and landscaping around the fountain and hire a design expert to design the fountain systems.

Anyone wanting to donate to the repair of that fountain and others can send contributions to the City of Fountains Foundation, 4049 Central St., Kansas City, Mo., 64111.

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