Pink tree and stone lions: A look at 2 Swope sculptures with ‘Secret Kansas City’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — A pink tree and stone lions. These two beautiful pieces of art stand near each other in Swope Park, but why are they there?

Author Anne Kniggendorf explains the origins of these two unique attractions along with 80-plus other strange sights in the Kansas City metro area in her book “Secret Kansas City.”

The pink tree near 4201 E. 63rd St. is a work of art from the Open Spaces Art Exhibit Kansas City hosted back in 2018. The artist of “Tree, Broken Tree,” Dylan Mortimer, is a former Kansas City area pastor with cystic fibrosis. By the time he turned 40 years old, he’d already had two lung transplants and outlived doctor’s expectations.

In an effort to transform an ugly disease into something beautiful, he decided to paint a tree at Swope Park pink with glitter as a symbol for the bronchial tubes in the lungs. But something magical has happened since.

After painting the dead tree pink, leaves began to sprout from its branches. It’s a miracle you can see during the spring and summer months.   

As for the stone lions at 6900 Swope Parkway, they are a part of the Swope Memorial, a stone edifice of columns honoring the man who donated the land to the city. Thomas Swope gifted 1,805 acres of land to Kansas City in 1896, and it remains one of the largest parks in the United States. After his death, he was interred in the beautiful stone memorial.

But did you know Swope was murdered, allegedly by his niece’s husband? After Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde married Swope’s niece, family members mysteriously began to die.

Investigators discovered Swope had been poisoned by cyanide, which they believe Dr. Hyde gave him. Then Swope’s nephew died of typhoid fever after Dr. Hyde purchased samples of typhoid.

A jury convicted Dr. Hyde in the deaths of nine Swope family members, but that conviction was later overturned.  

To learn more about all the secrets Kansas City holds, go to annekniggendorf.com.

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