LIBERTY — The Jewell Historic District along Jewell Street now has a different view of what has long been the backside of William Jewell College, located on College Hill. Rather than a hillside with a crumbling staircase, a terraced grand staircase now greets walkers and guests to the college.

On Friday, May 10, college leadership, Jonathan Kemper from the William T. Kemper Foundation, students, city leaders and Liberty residents took seats under the columns at the back of Jewell Hall to celebrate this new staircase that is aimed to better connect the college and the city.

“The renewed hillside is a reality that allows people to take a stroll, think and take in some art,” Jewell President Elizabeth MacLeod Walls said. “It’s our gateway to Liberty.”

Kemper said the hillside allows him to explore the college’s critical thinking directive while also serving as a mix of philosopher and scientist.

“While this hill is a solid base on which a college was built, there’s more. I was asked about why spend resources on this. It engenders people to get out in nature, focus on health and wellness,” he said. “It’s strengthening the synergy between the city and Jewell.”

The $1 million hillside project was funded through a gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation.

Junior Hannah Keeney, who will be next school’s year Student Senate president, called the dedication a “better cohesion with the two communities. It’s a better connection between town and gown.”Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton said Liberty and William Jewell College have grown up together. Liberty was incorporated in 1829 and the college was founded in 1849.

“We have leaned on one another for almost two centuries,” Brenton said. “Our history, our future and our legacies are intertwined. And like the strands of a rope, when woven together, there is strength and capability beyond what each strand possesses.”

Brenton also spoke about the city’s continuing renaissance that not only preserves the past, but celebrates the future.

“The city celebrates the vitality this project brings not only the campus, but to the city at large,” he said.

In addition to the staircase, there is now an asphalt walkway that winds around the southern slope of the hillside through old limestone light posts. The walkway continues to the east side of campus in front of White Science Center.

At the base of the stairs on Jewell Street is a new focal point welcoming visitors to campus and connecting the college with historic Liberty and the Square. The vision for the project is to be the gateway to Liberty, strengthening the physical and visual connection between campus and downtown Liberty.College leaders said they will begin in coming months to identify sculptures to add to the walkway, forming an art walk and a path for neighbors and the campus community.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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