Brookside’s Birthday Close-Out Special

(originally published 9/8/20)

With something as auspicious as a 100th anniversary, one doesn’t want to limit celebrations to a single date. If any anniversary is worth spreading it out over a year, surely it is the centenary. A lot of us had high hopes for the types of celebrations and events that might come out of such a special occasion. Alas, Brookside’s big bash was another pandemic casualty. So with the close of September 2020, a date that marks the end of a year’s worth of recognizing a 100th anniversary, the celebratory year comes to a close with a whisper.

Since the first shops opened in October 1919, 2019 was the year declared to be the anniversary year. But there has always been some confusion about Brookside’s dates of origin, in no small part because of some of the merchants. The Brookside district’s website even touted the 1920 date, causing at least one notable merchant to sink marketing dollars into promotional pieces for sale that declared “Brookside 1920.” But before that, I’ve encountered more than one merchant who, having heard a date associated with when their particular shop space first opened, assumed that translated to the whole district. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The timeline from the Brookside Shops’ conception to the moment that the last major area of today’s Brookside landscape was developed actually spans more than 100 years. Including the important planning phase, the era of the Nichols Company’s construction of its iconic buildings on the north side of 63rd Street covers the years 1909 to 1950. Construction of new buildings south of 63rd Street generally occurred between 1930 and 1970. At that point the footprint of the Brookside Shops was established, although a few individual sites have been redeveloped and renovated over the last 50 years.

This is good news for the merchants, patrons, neighborhoods or anyone else who still cares about celebrating Brookside – there are many other milestones in this small corner of KC’s history left to celebrate, if one is so inclined.

In this, the fourth and final post of KCB’s Brookside 100 tribute, I offer a brief timeline of how the Brookside Shops were developed by the Nichols Company and others over the last century, along with mentions and pictures of some of the businesses most associated with those parts of the district, particularly those rare businesses that have stood the test of time.

The combined fire and police station was built by the city around 1917, but it was the Nichols Company that sold the city the land for its development.

1908 – Nichols begins developing the Country Club District residential area, starting with the neighborhoods between the south bank of Brush Creek to approximately 55th Street.

1909 – The Nichols Company purchases the property that will be its Brookside Shopping District from the Wornall family.

1911 – The Nichols Company donates land to the city for construction of a new state-of-the-art police and fire station on 63rd Street.

The original Standard Oil station at 62nd Terrace and Brookside Boulevard, circa 1915.

1915 – The Nichols Company’s first single-tenant building, a Standard Oil station, is built on the southeast corner of 62nd Terrace and Brookside Boulevard, where the Roasterie coffee shop sits today. It remained a Standard/Amoco Station for about 70 years.

1919 – The front page of the October issue of the Country Club District Bulletin, the Nichols Company’s newsletter, features an announcement of the opening of its first multi-use commercial building in the Country Club District Bulletin on October 1, 1919. The building is named the Brookside Building, and sits on the northeast corner of Brookside Boulevard and 63rd Street. (see banner photo at top).

Announcement for the Brookside Garage in an early Country Club District bulletin.

1920 – The Brookside Garage is constructed, just west of the police and fire station.

1925 – Phase II of the Brookside development begins on 63rd Street. The US Postal Service opened the Country Club Station just west of the Brookside Garage, and over the next few years construction continues westward on 63rd Street to the intersection with Brookside Plaza (then Wyandotte Street).

Phase II – Brookside Plaza (then Wyandotte St.) on the left, looking from 62nd Terrace, and, on the right, the northeast corner of 63rd Street and Brookside Plaza.

1925-1930 – Phase III begins with the extension of the 63rd Street shops around the corner at Brookside Plaza, and north to 62nd Terrace, and finally, the last few shops east of the police and fire station, continuing eastward to Main Street and the Phillips 66 Service Station.

Final phase: the northwest corner of 63rd Street and Brookside Boulevard

1930-1936 – The final phase was slow to start, owing to the upheaval that the 1929 stock market crash caused in the development industry. But the Nichols business model had been working toward a more balanced approach to developing resident and commercial properties simultaneously, so the company was better positioned than most to throw its resources at commercial development. The last piece of the Nichols Company’s development was the shops on 63rd Street between Brookside Boulevard and Wornall Road.

Located at 308 W. 63rd, the building housing the Brookside Barber may be the last phase of Nichols Company development in Brookside, but the barber shop is now (as of this posting) the oldest Brookside Business, and the oldest currently operating in its original location.

Also during this period a few businesses showed up on the south side of 63rd Street between Main and Baltimore, most done by individual developers commercializing small parcels of land.

The Brookside Theatre Building on the east side of Brookside Plaza (Wyandotte) between 63rd Street and Meyer Boulevard, shortly after

1938-1949 – During the years surrounding World War II, development continued, but was somewhat sporadic. The biggest developments began at the beginning and end of this period. In 1938, Harry Jacobs’ Brookside Theatre Building rose along the east side of Brookside Plaza between 63rdStreet and Meyer Boulevard, creating the district’s largest and most varied collection of businesses under one development “roof.” In 1949, Jacob Hyman purchased most of the property on the west side of Brookside Plaza, opposite the theatre complex, to construct the flat-iron shaped office and retail building that sits there today.

The flat-iron building on the west side of Brookside Plaza (Wyandotte), between 63rd Street and Meyer Boulevard, circa 1960.

1950-1970 – During these last years, a few other smaller developments appeared that finished off the Brookside landscape as we know it today. The properties along 63rd Terrace just west of Main were developed, as were some of the smaller buildings on the south side of 63rd Street, also east of Main. The largest of the last plots to be developed was the site of today’s Commerce Bank building at Brookside Plaza and Meyer Boulevard.

Since that time, only two completely new buildings have been constructed. The most recent is the latest iteration of that Commerce Bank building mentioned above, just within the last few years. The other takes us back to the site of Nichols first stand-alone development, the old Standard Oil Station site. The station was razed in 2000 by the district’s new local ownership, who built the first retail shop for the coffee company that was born in “a basement in Brookside,” – the Roasterie.

The design of the Roasterie at 62nd Terrace and Brookside Boulevard, generally imitates the style of the original Standard Oil station.

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