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Rural Missouri Magazine

Hands of hope
Praying Hands Memorial, Webb City

by Jarrett Medlin

The hands remain forever folded on a mound overlooking the city. American flags flap around the silent memorial, and carved in stone in front of the statue are six simple words: “Hands in prayer. World in peace.”

The sight of Praying Hands Memorial in Webb City leaves a lasting impression. Each year, thousands of visitors and locals see the giant hands.

The memorial started in 1970, when a 20-year-old student named Jack Dawson approached the Webb City Park Board and the Historical Society about an art piece he wished to build in the city’s King Jack Park. The organizations quickly approved the statue and encouraged local citizens and merchants to help fund the project.

Dawson began the work in his own backyard by creating a steel understructure covered with a metal lath. Curious locals said the sight resembled a gigantic bird cage. When the steelwork was ready for the white stucco covering in the fall of 1972, the hands were taken to a mound in the park, near Highway 71.

On April 28, 1974, the 32-foot, 100-ton memorial opened to the public at a dedication ceremony. That day, the hand’s creator said, “The hands symbolize the need for a personal commitment and relationship to God.”

More than 30 years later, Praying Hands Memorial remains a symbol of the artist’s faith and the importance of prayer.

Admission to the memorial, which is open to visitors year-round, is free. To visit Praying Hands Memorial, take Highway 71 to the eastern edge of Webb City.

 

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