Neptune Fountain on the Plaza
The Neptune Fountain on the Plaza was installed in Kansas City, MO in 1953 by Miller Nichols. The fountain depicts Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, riding in a horse-drawn chariot. It was originally located on the Pennsylvania estate belonging to Alba B. Johnson, president of Baldwin Locomotive Company from 1911 to 1935. After his death, it was purchased by Nichols and set within the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.
Backstory and Context
The Neptune Fountain on the Plaza is located in Kansas City, MO. It was installed in the Country Club Plaza, its current location, in 1953. The fountain is made entirely of lead and is said to weight approximately 8,000 pounds. It was designed and sculpted in 1911 by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, which is located in Worchester, England. It depicts Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, holding his signature trident and riding in a chariot pulled by three horses. He is generally pictured like this and has a strong association with horse races as a result. Neptune is the brother of Jupiter, the King of the gods, and Pluto, the god of the Underworld. He bears a striking resemblance to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The eighth planet in the solar system is named after him.
The fountain was crafted in 1911 for Alba Boardman Johnson to put at his estate in Pennsylvania. Johnson was the president of Baldwin Locomotive Company from 1911 until his death in 1935. Baldwin Locomotive Co. was founded by Matthias Baldwin in the 1830s. During the railroad boom in American history, it was one of the top three companies in the industry, alongside the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and the Lima Locomotive Works until its decline and exit from the market in 1956. Johnson began working for a firm connected to the company, the Burnham, Parry, Williams and Co. directly out of high school as a junior clerk. He left after only a year to find other work, but he returned to work there approximately two years later. He began to climb in rank, eventually joining in a partnership with the company. On July 1, 1909, the company Johnson worked for was integrated into the Baldwin Locomotive Company, and Johnson was elected as the vice president and treasurer. Two years later, he was elected to be the company’s president. This was the same year the fountain was created for him.
After his death in 1935, no one would buy the fountain from his estate. The fountain ended up being thrown away. It was found in 1953 by Miller Nichols. Miller Nichols and his father, Jesse Clyde (J.C.) Nichols, are well known in the Kansas City area. J.C. Nichols valued clean and nice-looking neighborhoods and public buildings. It became his goal to renovate areas in and around Kansas City to attract people who felt the same. The J.C. Nichols Company built the Country Club Plaza, along with several dozen residential areas. After J.C. Nichols’ death in 1950, Miller took over and continued his work until his retirement in 1988. During this period, he installed a great number of fountains in Kansas City, including the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain. Miller heard about the Neptune fountain after it was discovered in a railroad car by a salvage team, and he offered to buy it from them for the price of its weight in scrap metal. He then installed the fountain in the Country Club Plaza in 1953, where it can still be found today.
Alba Boardman Johnson (1858-1935). PA Chamber of Business and Industry. . Accessed November 03, 2018. https://www.pachamber.org/about/history/first_president.php.
Baldwin Locomotive Works. American Rails. . Accessed November 03, 2018. https://www.american-rails.com/baldwin-locomotive-works.html.
Fischer, William. Neptune. The Historical Marker Database. September 05, 2016. Accessed November 03, 2018. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=88240.
J.C. Nichols Company Records. The State Historical Society of Missouri. . Accessed November 03, 2018. https://shsmo.org/manuscripts/kansascity/k0106.html.
Neptune. Greek Gods and Goddesses. March 14, 2017. Accessed November 03, 2018. https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/gods/neptune/.
Neptune. The City of Fountains Foundations. October 23, 2016. Accessed November 03, 2018. https://www.kcfountains.com/single-post/201%C2%A0Gui6/10/23/Neptune.
The fountain is Neptune, god of the sea. Midtown KC Post. May 06, 2013. Accessed November 03, 2018. http://midtownkcpost.com/the-fountain-is-neptune-god-of-the-sea/.