11 Facts About Loose Park Rose Garden

Published by Lori Ventura on

11 Facts About Loose Park Rose Garden

  1. The original land for what was to become Loose Park, was originally a 450-acre farm and pasture owned by Seth Ward and his wife in 1871. Ward was a former Wyoming rancher, trading oxen for goods and services for early settlers who had moved to Kansas City. The Ward family legacy lives on through the street otherwise known as Ward Parkway.

2. Jacob Loose, bought the land south of the Country Club Plaza at 51st & Wornall for $500,000 in 1927 from Ward’s widow and then donated it for a park to commemorate her late husband, the former chairman of Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company, now what is known as Sunshine Biscuit (think Cheez-Its!). Her one condition? No organized sports are to be played at the park; it should be a space for “free-play”; a place for a “retreat”, not specifically recreation.

3. Loose Park is the 3rd largest park in the city with 74 acres, behind Swope Park (1805 acres), and Penn Valley Park (176 acres). It’s definitely a park to explore depending on your current vibe.

  • Want to relax? There is plenty of space to throw out a blanket, have a picnic, read a book, or fly a kite in the wide-open spaces. 
  • Feel like getting in a good workout? The entire park is surrounded with paved pathways that are both inclined and level. 
  • In the mood to get next to some water? The park has an amazing lake that you can explore.
  • Want to stop and smell the roses? This rose garden is to die for and has been in existence for almost 100 years!
  • And of course, fountain hunting is always a plus with the large Rose Garden Fountain and several lovely fountains in the lake.

4. The 1864 Battle of Westport during the American Civil War, also known as the “Gettysburg of the West”, was fought on the south side of the Loose Park. Confederate General Stirling was overrun and defeated by Union General Curtis. Missouri had both Union and Confederate supporters; The Battle of Westport officially ended the last Confederate offensive in Missouri and forever changed the course of Missouri’s war status. Estimates report that over 30K soldiers died during this battle. Today, a small outdoor museum reflecting this battle can be visited by park goers.

5. In 1979, the Cerner Corporation was planned during a brainstorming session at a picnic table in Loose Park. Who knew?!

6. Kansas City officially joined the American Rose Society in 1931 under the leadership efforts of Laura Conyers Smith who established the Kansas City Rose Society. Mrs. Smith, being a creative rose gardening green-thumb herself, would invite friends over to her house for tea and to listen to the weekly “Rose Talks” sponsored by the American Rose Society talks on the radio. One particular airing of the talks discussed “how to establish a municipal rose garden” and the 65 guests, which included representatives of the Park Department, Chamber of Commerce, and area nurserymen, agreed that Kansas City should have its own municipal Rose Garden. The following week, Kansas City official had its own branch of the American Rose Society. The Society would supply the roses and the Kansas City Parks and Rec agreed to supply the care and tendering of the garden. In June 1931, the first tract of the garden came to fruition with the planting of 120 rose bushes in the northwest corner of Loose Park.

7.  It is hard to imagine a more perfect setting or design for the garden. Park Department landscape architect, S. Herbert Hare, designed a classic concentric rose bed plan encircled with limestone and timber arches and pergolas, centered around a water pool. The initial concept was timeless and has undergone little change from the beginning. The varieties, colors, and vigor of roses have grown more splendid through the years.

8.  The garden itself has remained fairly consistent in design, but the fountain has gone thru a few changes. In 1935, the KC Gardeners Association gifted the garden with a stone lily pond as a centerpiece to the garden. The first fountain, named the Spirit of the Rose Garden was an unglazed terracotta life-sized female adorned in roses rising from the pond.  That sculpture disappeared in the 1950s and was never replaced. 

9.  After 20+ years, in 1979, a new modern fountain replaced the missing Spirit sculpture and lily pond. This fountain resembled a bouquet of flowers and sat in a retaining pool 30 feet in diameter and approximately 4 feet deep.  Five aluminum cylinders at varying heights sat in the middle of the pool with mushroom-type sprays at the top. 

10.  Felt to be too modern, a new fountain was conceived to reflect the spirit of the original Hale design. Thus, the current fountain is made of Italian stone, features many sprays and was dedicated in 2002.

11.  The nearby wall fountains, originally part of a WPA project in 1942 features 2 extra-large male and female figures sitting in semi-circular basins. When the sculptures were restored after years of weathering, the plumbing for the water was not replaced.

Lori Ventura

Lori Ventura is a website developer and a small business entrepreneur. She is a proud resident of her beloved Kansas City, actively promotes local small businesses and a super-fan of the glorious fountains that embody the spirit and beauty of Kansas City.


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