In honor of Veterans’ Day this year, we are highlighting a piece of KCK history that dates back to the period following World War I. Sitting high on a hill overlooking Southwest Boulevard, the Rosedale Memorial Arch has been a Kansas City, Kansas landmark since 1923. Those unfamiliar with its history may wonder what the significance of the Arch is. It was built to honor citizens of Rosedale who served in the First World War and the 42nd United States Infantry Division, known as the “Rainbow Division.”
In 1921, the city of Rosedale passed a bond issue to raise $25,000 for the construction of a new memorial. Designed by John Leroy Marshall, a member of the Rosedale American Legion Post #346, the overall design was based on a sketch he made of the Arc de Triomphe while serving in Paris. Despite the approval of the bond issue, the annexation of Rosedale by Kansas City, Kansas, forced a temporary delay in the acquisition of land for the monument, but in 1922, 21 lots adjacent to Rosedale High School were purchased for the project for $10,000.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on July 20, 1923, and was attended by General Henri Eugene Gouraud of the 4th Army of France. The 117th Ammunition Train and 117th Signal battalion of the Rainbow Div. had served under him during the war. A crowd of 6,000 jubilant onlookers cheered on the parade that ran from 39th Street up to Mount Marty, the site of the future monument.
The land purchase was completed in August 1923, and construction began soon after, supervised by harry Kaelin, Park Commissioner of Kansas City, Kansas. The construction contract was awarded to H. C. Readecker, a Rosedale contractor and stonemason. Construction of the nearly 35-foot tall monument was completed during the summer of 1924, and at the cost of $22,179, it came in well under budget. The structure consists of 4″ limestone facing over brick with minimal ornamentation. A carved inscription on the parapet reads:
ERECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF ROSEDALE IN – HONOR OF ITS CITIZENS WHO
ANSWERED – THEIR COUNTRY’S CALL AND SERVED UNDER ARMS FOR THE
TRIUMPH OF RIGHT OVER MIGHT IN THE WORLD WAR.
The unveiling and dedication of the Arch took place on Sunday, September 7, 1924, in front of a crowd of 2,500 citizens. Mayor W. W. Gordon, Frank Rushton, and Brig. General Harry A. Smith, Commandant Fort Leavenworth, spoke at the ceremony.
After years of decline during the Great Depression and WWII, the 1960s saw renewed interest in maintaining the nearly forgotten monument. The city, the Board of Education, private individuals, and veterans’ groups all came together to raise funds for the improvement of the Arch and the grounds. The road to the Arch was graveled, and new lighting was installed. A rededication ceremony was held on November 11, 1962, in honor of veterans of all wars.
In 1972, after the Arch once again appeared to have been forgotten, additional improvements were made to the site. A circular plaza with overlooks facing north and east was added as well as landscaping and new lighting. On August 2, 1977, the Arch was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Over the years, the Arch has undergone periodic maintenance. In 1987 restoration project was completed and graffiti removed; in 1989, an iron fence was installed, designed by Bob’s Ornamental Iron Studio. Father landscaping was completed during the summer of 1992, and on November 13, 1993, a memorial monument listing names of Rosedale veterans killed in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War was installed beneath the Arch. Today, the Arch has become a symbol of Rosedale and a popular spot to visit and take in the beautiful Kansas City skyline.
Landis, Margaret. The Winding Valley and The Craggy Hillside: A History of the City of Rosedale, Kansas. Kansas City, Kansas: self-published, 1976
National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, August 2, 1977