One of Kansas City's newest and most spectacular fountains is the Henry Wollman Bloch Fountain, located at the north end of Penn Valley Park across from Union Station. Built in 2001 and renovated in 2016, the fountain features 120 water jets and 112 air jets that can shoot bursts of water up to 80 feet into the air. The jets put on choreographed shows controlled by a computer so they can be programmed with unique shows for special occasions. It was created by WET Design, a California-based firm that also designed the famous Belaggio fountain in Las Vegas.
The fountain is named after the co-founder of the tax preparation giant H&R Block, who gifted it to the city. Henry W. Bloch was a Kansas City native who served in the Air Force during World War II and attended business school at Harvard. After returning to KC, he started a business services company with his brother, Leon. In 1955, they placed an ad for income tax preparation services in the Kansas City Star, about the same time that the IRS made a decision to stop offering free tax help in KC, which lead to a big boom in business.
When Leon left for law school, Robert started a new company, H&R Block, with his brother Robert. They used an alternate spelling of their surname to make the pronunciation clearer. By 1957, they had opened franchises in Columbus and Topeka. By the time Henry Bloch passed away in 2019, H&R Block had over 12,000 offices in the U.S.
Cover image courtesy of Kansas City Parks & Recreation.