Historic Westport by Fred Lee, Westport, July 1979
One of Westport’s most imposing monuments is the “Eagle monument” on 39th Street at Gillham Road. It was built as a nation-wide tribute to all men and boys who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
When the idea for the monument was conceived by the Boy Scouts of America, half a dozen or so cities and sites were considered for its placement. Kansas City was chosen above all others because the Kansas City Area Council has consistently awarded more Eagle Scout badges than any area council in the United States.
The tribute had its roots in 1965 with the announcement of the razing of Pennsylvania Railroad station in New York City. The station was built in 1910 with Adolph A. Weinman and Charles Fallen McKim of McKim, Meade and White as its chief architects.
Over each of the stations’ two entrances were two pink Milford granite entablatures which had as their center-piece seven-foot high clocks circled by granite wreaths. On either side of each clock stood a female figure, one presenting Day and the other Night. Beside each figure stood a carved eagle.
In 1967, during the razing of the Pennsylvania station, John E. Starr, a past president of the Kansas City Area Council and Chairman of the Eagle Scout tribute committee, suggesting that these entablatures by saved and some way incorporated into an Eagle Scout memorial.
On July 5, 1966, Stuart T. Saunders, board chairman of the Pennsylvania Railroad, notified the national Boy Scout Council that the railroad was awarding the statuary that graced the East Concourse entrance of the station to the Scouts as a gift from their railroad.
Getting the statuary to Kansas City presented a problem. The railroad offered to ship the 62,000 pound entablature to its western terminus in St. Louis. Arrangements were then made with D. B. Jenks, president of the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, to have a flatcar move the entablature the rest of the way to Kansas City. Belger Cartage handled the difficult job of moving the grouping to the J.C. Nichols Company warehousing area at 95th and Holmes for storage while the 39th and Gillham site was prepared for receiving it.
Maurice McMullen, architect in the firm of Black and Veatch, developed the design for the tribute in conjunction with Frank Voydik, superintendent of Parks and Recreation in Kansas City.
The 22-foot entablature is set in a concrete mounting. An aluminum reproduction of the Eagle Scout badge occupies the center wreath in the design. The badge ribbon is decorated with a brilliant red, white and blue. A silver-colored eagle hangs under it.
Dedication ceremonies for the monument were held Sunday, October 6, 1968. A highlight of the ceremony was the placement of a bound volume in the cornerstone of the monument containing the signatures of men and boys who have attained the Eagle rank over the years. Since its incorporation in 1921, the Kansas City Area Boy Scout Council has awarded more than 14, 000 Eagle badges.
Taking part in the dedication ceremonies that day were national, state and local scouting representatives of the Pennsylvania Railroad.