During the four years of World War I, thousands of soldiers fought courageously for justice - with many of them losing their lives in battle. Once the war ended on the Western Front of Europe on November 11, 1918, those back home began to think of ways to honor and remember all their loved ones who demonstrated such bravery. In the end, it was the citizens of Kansas City, MO, who proposed the creation of a lasting monument.

To bring this idea to fruition, the Liberty Memorial Association, led by founding president R.A. Long, organized a community-based fund-raising campaign in 1919. In less than two weeks, more than $2,500,000 was raised by public subscription in Kansas City and around the nation. Following the drive, a national architectural competition for monument designs was held by the American Institute of Architects.

The winning design, belonging to H. Van Buren Magonigle of New York, was selected from among 15 entries. The design for the memorial complex, which would sit high above Kansas City, included a materials palette of Indiana limestone, steel and concrete. A 217-foot-tall Memorial Tower, which has four large stone figures around the top, is one of the main features of the complex. The figures, which were designed by sculptor Robert Aitken, represent Courage, Honor, Patriotism and Sacrifice. The tower diameter is 36 feet at the courtyard level.

Two stone sphinxes - Memory and Future - were designed by H. Van Buren Magonigle and flank the south entrance. Additionally, there is a Great Frieze on the north terrace wall, measuring 180 x 18 feet. Sculpted by Edmond Amateis, the frieze depicts the progress from war to peace. Tying the complex together are courtyards and stairways. The main courtyard measures 154 x 274 feet.

Another attraction of the complex is the Liberty Memorial Museum, which was part of the design of the Liberty Memorial from its inception. The museum was to include objects and documents of the war. In the beginning, the first items in the museum's collection were a number of posters from the war. The museum still collects today, and tries to remain faithful to the initial objective, which was to collect, preserve and interpret the physical objects of World War I. The Liberty Memorial Museum is recognized as the only public museum in the U.S. that is dedicated solely to the history of World War I.

The site for the Liberty Memorial was dedicated on November 1, 1921. Speaking at the ceremony, which drew a crowd of about 200,000 people, were the main Allied military leaders: Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, General John J. Pershing of the U.S. and Admiral Lord Earl Beatty of Great Britian. This was the only time in history that those leaders were together in one place.

After three years of construction, the completed Liberty Memorial opened on November 11, 1926, with President Calvin Coolidge delivering the dedication speech. Queen Marie of Romania also spoke as well.

Restoring the memorial

As with most stone structures that have endured harsh weather elements and air pollutants for a long period, the Liberty Memorial was in need of a restoration. In the 1930s, the Liberty Memorial Association had entered into an agreement with the city of Kansas City, MO, for the maintenance and daily operations of the memorial. Since that time, two restorations have been completed - one in 1965 and another one recently completed in the spring of last year.

"I worked on the first restoration project in 1965," said Chuck Scammell, currently president of Mid-Co Contractors, Inc. of Kansas City, MO. "It was a significant restoration that was completed by Mid Continental Restoration, our parent company. Primarily, it was cleaning, re-pointing mortar joints and patching defective pieces of stone. There was also some minor stone replacement. We basically gave the memorial a facelift."

Experienced with the project, Scammell had the opportunity to work on the memorial again when his company was contracted to begin a second restoration of the stonework in June 2000. Mid-Co Contractors is a union company owned by Mid Continental Restoration, a large restoration company in the Midwest. Because of Mid Continental's 50-year track record with large-scale restoration projects, Mid-Co Contractors was awarded the job.

Scammell worked along with Frank Halsey, Mid-Continental Restoration president. "I was involved as a consultant to Mid-Co Contractors," said Halsey. "We opened the subsidiary company about four years ago because Mid Continental is a non-union company, and we needed to have a union presence in Kansas City in order to work on some of these projects."

Halsey explained that his involvement with the project came early on during the planning and design phase. "ASAI Architecture of Kansas City contacted Mid Continental Restoration, and at the time, I was our rep in Kansas City," he said. "They asked us to assist them to put together budget prices. They provided us with preliminary drawings that we used to put something together."

Damage to the structure

Over the years, the memorial's Indiana limestone had been neglected, and water penetration had caused rusting of the steel components. Additionally, the freeze/thaw cycles caused spalling of the stone, according to Halsey.

"The stone was very dirty and had numerous cracks and spalls as a result of water penetration and lack of maintenance," he said. "A lot of replacement was involved with new pieces as well as salvaged units. Many of the units needed to be replaced because to replace the structural steel components, we needed to remove the limestone. We replaced the steel with stainless steel and then replaced the limestone with salvaged or new pieces. That was the most extensive course of the job."

According to Scammell, there was 28,000 cubic feet of limestone that was dismantled and 3,500 lineal feet of steel was replaced. "We incorporated 14,000 cubic feet of new Bedford Indiana limestone back into the restoration phase," he said. "The most significant feature of the project was the portions of the memorial on the south elevation. The wall was covered with backfill. We unearthed that and exposed the limestone, which had been underground for 80 years. We incorporated those pieces into the Great Frieze wall on the north elevation so that [it was composed of] all original pieces."

The contractor continued to explain that the new limestone, which was supplied by Evans Limestone Co. of Bedford, IN, was used in areas where it was less conspicuous. "The memorial sits on a hill facing Union Station," said Scammell. "With all that traffic, our goal was to make sure that by the completion of this project, all the veneer pieces in that wall would be original stone."

The limestone pieces taken from the south elevation were approximately 2,000 pounds each and 4 inches thick, according to Scammell. "The restoration involved extracting them, storing them for a couple of years and cleaning them," said the contractor. "The goal of this restoration project was to make the structure look like a new antique."

After the large pieces were salvaged from the south elevation, they had to be resized. "We did that right on site with the saw and mill shed," said Scammell. "We built a complete mill right on the job site. It was run by our individual craftsmen. It was so important to incorporate those original pieces back into the north wall."

The stone pieces being cut varied only slightly in size. Measurements ranged from 7 x 31?feet to 6 feet long. "We were just slightly modifying the pieces. None of the stones are exactly the same size," said Scammell. "When we would take a stone out of the north wall, we'd find a salvaged piece as close to that size and cut it down to make it fit."

He explained that most of the original stone had gone through a shot sawn milling process. "There is a particular groove that was put in the limestone, which is not done now," said the contractor. "That's why it was important to salvage the original shot sawn pieces from the south elevation."

An extensive job

According to Halsey, this project was probably the largest stone restoration job of its type being completed at the time. "It was approximately 120,000 square feet of surface area," he said, adding that the memorial is 600 feet long. "We worked around the structure doing all the repairs at the same time. The whole process took about 20 months to complete."

Project Architect Blake Elliott of ASAI Architecture agreed with Halsey. "I think the sheer enormity of the restoration was a challenge," he said. "From the stone perspective, a lot of it was removed and installed in the same place. Part of the reason for that was to allow the replacement of the existing shelf angles with new stainless steel."

The architect explained that many times there were limestone pieces, which looked in good condition on initial inspection, but it was discovered that they were deteriorated when they were removed. "We spent a bit of time on site going down the list with Mid-Co," said Elliott. "We were looking at damage that was previously not identified."

At the time of the initial inspection, certain areas could not be reached without a lift, the architect explained. "We were guessing in some areas," he said. "As Mid-Co was going through the process, they would call up on a regular basis and ask us to come and look [at the pieces]."

In areas where new limestone pieces were used, the material came from the same general area as the original stone. Halsey explained that the original quarry was closed, but the architectural firm researched the area where the material had come from and discovered Evans Co. "Their quarry has been operating since the turn of the [20th] century," said Scammell.

In addition to replacing det-eriorated limestone pieces, the restoration also involved a lot of patching of minor defects in existing stone and then cleaning of biological growth, according to the contractor. All of the mortar joints were also cut out and re-pointed.

Scammell said that besides the obvious challenges such as avoiding scheduling conflicts with the other trades and meeting the completion deadline, re-anchoring with Dur-O-Flex or expandable anchors also posed a little difficulty.

But through experience and careful steps, Mid-Co Contractors' craftsmen - some who have been working for the companies for 25 to 30 years - were able to overcome these obstacles.

End Box: The Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO

Original Architect: H. Van Buren Magonigle, New York, NY
Restoration Architect: ASAI Architecture, Kansas City, MO
General Contractor: J.E. Dunn Construction, Kansas City, MO
Stone Restoration Contractor: Mid-Co Contractors, Kansas City, MO (wholly owned subsidiary of Mid Continental Restoration, Fort Scott, KS)
Restoration Stone Supplier: Evans Limestone Co, Bedford, IN