The Powell Family: Legacy at the Gardens
The roots of Powell Gardens reach back to 1948 when George E. Powell, Sr., acquired a beautiful tract of land just east of Kansas City. The acreage served as a working dairy farm and a Boy Scout Camp until the early 1980s, when the children and grandchildren of Mr. Powell made the decision to develop a horticulture/natural resources facility on the land, creating Kansas City’s first botanical garden. Dedicating the resources of the Powell Family Foundation, the family has been the driving force in establishing and sustaining the Gardens by donating the land, developing the concept and contributing more than $50 million over its 32-year history.
The Powell Gardens story is one in which a family’s vision of a unique gift to its community evolved into a beautiful reality. Countless individuals, inspired by the generosity and guided by the legacy of the Powell Family Foundation, have come together as a community to give their time, talent and treasure to ensure that the Gardens continue well into the
future. The Powell Family Foundation and the Powell Gardens Board of Directors share the belief that now is the time to establish the Gardens as a more independent entity and take the next step in its growth as Kansas City’s botanical garden.
Strengthen Today to Ensure the Future: The Campaign for Powell Gardens
Today, Powell Gardens operates with revenues generated in equal amounts from earned income, including admissions, rentals and memberships; philanthropic gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations; and endowment income, combined with the support of the Powell Family Foundation.
The Powell Gardens Board is committed to operating the Gardens in a strategic manner designed to meet the needs of visitors today while ensuring that generations to come will also be served. With the support of the Powell Family Foundation, the board recognizes that the Gardens is a community asset and is laying the groundwork to move the Gardens forward in the most responsible way to address multiple current needs and position the Gardens for long-term financial stability.
Strengthening the Gardens Today | The capital components of the campaign focus on new construction to enhance current facilities and programming.
The Gardens is well known for the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel. Nestled among native wildflowers, redbuds
and lofty oaks, this nondenominational chapel, designed by world-renowned architects E. Fay Jones and
Maurice Jennings, is a serene space for inspiration and reflection, weddings and memorial services. While
the Chapel hosts nearly 100 gatherings each year, it lacks the space needed for brides to prepare for their big
day or for families to gather privately before services. The Chapel Studio will be constructed as an auxiliary
structure near the Chapel. Also designed by Maurice Jennings Architects + Walter Jennings Architects, it
will provide a changing room for bridal parties and a gathering space for others using the Chapel.
The Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel turns 20 years old in 2016. To maintain its beauty and enhance it
architectural details, work will be done to update the Chapel including staining the exterior and updating the
heating and cooling. These elements will strengthen the earned rental income for the Gardens and improve
the Chapel Experience for all visitors.
While Powell Gardens is fortunate to have direct access from US Highway 50, the present entrance is hidden
in a valley that provides limited views of the entrance and its signage. To address this issue, property was
purchased on Highway 50 adjacent to the Gardens. The highly visible hilltop position is the perfect location
for a new garden designed to reflect the beauty of Powell Gardens and increase awareness of the Gardens’
location and mission. The creation of a new Garden Entrance will create a focal point on the highway that
will draw new visitors from the 15,000 cars passing by daily.
An iconic piece of Kansas City art, the Sheaves of Wheat, will front the new entrance catching the attention
of those passing by. Created in 1966 by Kansas City artist Jac Bowen for the Board of Trade Building on Main
Street, the sculpture is considered the “world’s largest hand-wrought brass relief” measuring 17 feet by 70 feet.
With this reflection of the “Amber Waves of Grain” as its front, the new Entrance Garden will be an iconic
splash of waving masses of native and ornamental grasses set off with colorful drifts of seasonal perennial
flowers that capture our spirit of place. From spring through fall there will be something in bloom. In winter
the seed heads, along with the warm shades of the billowing grasses, will provide interest and show off a
new snowfall beautifully. The Sheaves of Wheat and the new Entrance Garden will soon serve as a landmark
leading into and out of Kansas City.
Ensuring the Gardens’ Future | Increasing the Gardens’ endowment is essential to ensuring that the Gardens is here for the next generation.
Powell Gardens is home to seven major gardens, each with a unique feel and purpose. From North America’s longest “living” wall on the Island Garden to the nation’s largest edible landscape in the Heartland Harvest Garden, beauty abounds in every season. Funds to endow the gardens will cover the expense of plants, maintenance, equipment, personnel and repairs while guaranteeing that the Gardens will serve the needs of its visitors for generations to come.
As Kansas City’s botanical garden, the Gardens’ programs promote the history and conservation of Kansas City’s oldest trees, provide science education to area students and attract locals and tourists to its popular Festival of Butterflies to learn more about monarchs and ways to protect these and other native species. Funds to endow programs will support research, annual expenses and youth education scholarships.
Central to the success of the Gardens are the horticulturists and educators who bring life and learning to visitors.Endowing positions for the Director of Horticulture and the Director of Education ensures a long-term commitment to quality leadership in these areas. The Gardens is also committed to training future leaders in public gardening. Student internship endowments provide stipends to college students gaining hands-on experience at the Gardens.
The Gardens has more structures by renowned American architects E. Fay Jones and Maurice Jennings than any other public facility. The architectural highlights include the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel, the Visitor Education Center, the Meadow Pavilion, the Gatehouse, the Missouri Barn and soon, the new Chapel Studio. Each uses natural material, wide expanses of glass that bring the outside in and lines that allow each building to blend into its surroundings. Endowed funds for facilities will cover the annual maintenance and repairs needed to preserve the timeless quality of these public buildings.