The Liberty Memorial – A Tale of Two Cities



The Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri was designed in 1921 as memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War I.

The Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska was designed in 1921 to house the three branches of state government and as a memorial to Nebraskans who had died in World War I.

Thomas Kimball, an Omaha architect, was elected national president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1919 and served in that capacity for two years. A major issue confronting the national AIA at that time was the use of wide-open, free-for-all design competitions as a means of selecting architects for civic buildings. Kimball led the AIA effort for regulated design competitions each directed by a competent architectural advisor of the highest standards. The regulated design competitions would include a contract between the client and a selected group of architects who would receive payment for their work. A program for the competition and a construction budget would be prepared. A jury of architects would determine the winner of the competition. A typical jury might include an architect selected by the client, a second selected by the architectural advisor, and a third selected by the first two jurors.

Thomas Kimball was asked to serve as architectural advisor on both the Nebraska State Capitol and on the Liberty Memorial design competitions. Kimball started in practice in 1891, had experienced the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, and the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. At the end of World War I Kimball began encouraging architects to believe America was ready for, and in need of, a more enlightened architectural expression.

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of New York won the design competition for the Nebraska State Capitol. Goodhue’s entry for the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City placed fourth.

Harold Van Buren Magonigle of New York won the design competition for the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. Magonigle’s entry for the Nebraska State Capitol placed down the line.

The Memorial Room at the Nebraska State Capitol is at the top of the 400’ tower. The National World War I Museum located in the base of the Liberty Memorial was opened to the public in 2006 and is a must-see for visitors to Kansas City, Missouri.