Money and Real Estate

(KC 1900 Series: # 7) The last post ended the story of Nelson’s campaign for a convention hall with a reference to the headline on the day it was announced the project would go forward. “A Start On the Building,” was how it read. No need to say which building; by now, as all ofContinue reading “Money and Real Estate”

Ink by the Barrel

(KC 1900 Series: # 6) By the 1890s, the influence of the Kansas City Star had risen to the position of the dominant newspaper in the city, particularly with regard to issues that effected the city’s prosperity on a political, economic and social level. What made The Star effective in its job of creating andContinue reading “Ink by the Barrel”

The People’s Voice

(KC 1900 Series: # 5) The previous post looked at the role of the Commercial Club, one of the driving forces behind the Convention Hall project. Now we look at the man and the institution that brought the project to the people, and then pushed it forward every step of the way  – William RockhillContinue reading “The People’s Voice”

The Commercial Club

(KC 1900 Series: Post: # 4) As the 19th century moved toward its close, Kansas City had become the type of city of which its founders could have only dreamed. An increasingly important part of the national economic network, and the new gateway to the vast resources of the west. A city resilient in itsContinue reading “The Commercial Club”

The Spirit of Kansas City

(KC 1900 Series: # 3) I had always wondered about the phrase “Kansas City Spirit” – where it came from, and what it meant. I knew the former wouldn’t be too hard to find, but I figured the latter would be impossible to answer. Still, when I learned that it was commonly accepted that theContinue reading “The Spirit of Kansas City”

Locked in a Forgotten Safe

(KC 1900 Series: # 1) TO THE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL During a recent audit and survey of the Municipal Auditorium, there came to our attention an old safe in the control room. The combination was not available and no one appeared to be familiar with its contents. It was deemed advisable toContinue reading “Locked in a Forgotten Safe”

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 outContinue reading “Brookside’s Birthday Close-Out Special”

Midwest Research Institute’s Early Technology – A Photo Essay

(originally published 7/16/20) Last week, I shared some of Midwest Research Institute’s early history. A hallmark of those early days was the struggle to stay current with, or even just acquire, the high-dollar, over-sized equipment that was necessary for “hard” science research. The whole field of instrumentation was evolving. The market for that equipment wasContinue reading “Midwest Research Institute’s Early Technology – A Photo Essay”

The Early History of Midwest Research Institute:“…a lighthouse on the prairie”

(originally published 7/9/20) When I scheduled a post on the history of Midwest Research Institute for this year, I truly didn’t realize (or perhaps remember?) that the story of MRI begins where the previous three posts ended – ongoing opportunities presented by Kansas City’s WWII-era defense production plants. Serendipitous, yes, but that fact is justContinue reading “The Early History of Midwest Research Institute:“…a lighthouse on the prairie””

100 Years ago in Kansas City: A Photo Time Capsule

(originally published 5/21/20) It doesn’t seem possible that 1920 is one hundred years ago. My parents were born within a few years of either side of that date, and so growing up, when I remember them best in the 1960s and 70s, 1920 was only about 40 or 50 years earlier. Now, I hate toContinue reading “100 Years ago in Kansas City: A Photo Time Capsule”

Dr. David Waldo – Part 2: The Later Years

(originally published 5/7/20) Last week introduced us to the colorful figure that is Dr. David Waldo, original owner of the property around 75th and Wornall, and the man whose name was adopted for the community in that area. Having established himself financially and professionally in the eastern part of Missouri in his twenties, he movedContinue reading “Dr. David Waldo – Part 2: The Later Years”

Dr. David Waldo – Part 1: The Early Years

(originally published 4/30/20) The one thousand acres that Dr. David Waldo purchased in 1841 might have been any one other thousand acres in the area. Had anyone else bought it, the area obviously would not be known today as “Waldo,” a unique corner of Kansas City’s urban landscape. But location was central to Waldo’s objectives.Continue reading “Dr. David Waldo – Part 1: The Early Years”

Photo Montage: The 1940s Tax Assessment Photos

(originally published 3/26/20) In my July 18, 2019 post, I wrote about the 1940s Tax Assessment Photos available online for Kansas City, Missouri. If you don’t want to go back and read the earlier post, here’s the short background. In 1940, Kansas City participated in a WPA program whereby all – yes, all – ofContinue reading “Photo Montage: The 1940s Tax Assessment Photos”

Napoleon Dible’s Magnificent Homes

(originally published 2/27/20) While J.C. Nichols’ name is apparent all over town even seventy years after his death, the name of Napoleon Dible is generally only known in parts of town, particularly the Waldo area. Both men put their own stamp on the housing character of Kansas City during the first half of the 20thContinue reading “Napoleon Dible’s Magnificent Homes”

Harry Jacobs’ American Dream

(originally published 2/20/20) I first heard of Harry Jacobs while researching the old Brookside Theatre. That was Harry’s building, his “baby” as he called it, until 1978 when it burned to the ground and broke a piece of Harry’s heart. But Harry’s heart, his humor and his boot-strapping philosophy were all intact and in fullContinue reading “Harry Jacobs’ American Dream”

Silver Screens and Curtain Calls: The Waldo Theatre Building

(originally published 2/6/20) This is from my 2012 book The Waldo Story. It’s a segment on the many lives of one corner in Waldo that holds a lot of memories for a lot of folks. At the time of the book, that corner was still healing from a major fire five years earlier. Having livedContinue reading “Silver Screens and Curtain Calls: The Waldo Theatre Building”

The Landing Mall: A History of Redevelopment (Part II)

(originally published 1/30/20) Last week’s post told the history of The Landing, 1897 – 1950(ish). This week, we look at the property in the hands of the J.C. Nichols Company, which purchased it in 1946, but didn’t get around to developing it for quite some time. We concluded the last post with the official companyContinue reading “The Landing Mall: A History of Redevelopment (Part II)”

The Landing Mall: A History of Redevelopment (Part I)

(originally published 1/23/20) This is the first of a two-part look at the The Landing Mall, beginning with its history before the center was built. The site spent 50 years supporting a business, taking advantage of a natural setting that has long since been covered in pavement. But its fate would change with the arrivalContinue reading “The Landing Mall: A History of Redevelopment (Part I)”

From Farms to Families: The Story of Early Prairie Village

(originally published 1/16/20) A few years ago I discovered this wonderful book on the history of Prairie Village. “Wait,” you say. “Prairie Village has a history? Isn’t it just a shopping center surrounded by tract housing?” No, not at all. In fact, a lot of the communities that today blend together as one big swathContinue reading “From Farms to Families: The Story of Early Prairie Village”

1950: Kansas City’s Centennial Report

(originally published 1/2/20) I found a booklet some years ago in a flea market somewhere in town, the “City Manager’s Centennial Year Report.” It was published in 1950, the 100th anniversary of the city’s original charter, and throughout the year, the city celebrated at every turn, and dozens of books and stories were published aboutContinue reading “1950: Kansas City’s Centennial Report”

The Train Out of Westport: Part 3 – The Country Club Freeway

(originally published 11/21/19) For the past two weeks, we’ve been looking at the history of the Trolley Track Trail, the pedestrian and bike trail that runs from Brookside Boulevard and Volker, all the way south to Dodson at 85th & Prospect. What began as a freight line connecting Westport to south Jackson County in theContinue reading “The Train Out of Westport: Part 3 – The Country Club Freeway”

From Trash to Treasure: Kansas City’s 1940 Tax Assessment Photos

(originally published 7/18/19) On the home front, we’re in the midst of a taxpayer revolt in Kansas City/Jackson County over what appears to be at a minimum a poorly administered property assessment. That event took my thoughts to the story of another tax assessment that almost 80 years after its completion has turned into aContinue reading “From Trash to Treasure: Kansas City’s 1940 Tax Assessment Photos”

Un-Welcome to the Neighborhood: Brookside’s “Blue Goose”

(originally published in 2017 in the book, One Hundred Years’ Journey: The Greenway Fields Neighborhood,” and in KC Backstories 6/13/19) This version is adapted from the KCB post) I may be one of the few people in midtown that doesn’t have a strong opinion about the “Blue Goose.” To me, it’s just a part ofContinue reading “Un-Welcome to the Neighborhood: Brookside’s “Blue Goose””

The Speculators: Waldo, Wornall, Ward and Armour

(originally published 5/9/19) Four men and their descendants played significant roles in the development of the land south of Brush Creek, as well as contributed greatly to the larger story of Kansas City and its part in the American West. They were speculators. They came to make their fortunes, or came with fortunes to invest,Continue reading “The Speculators: Waldo, Wornall, Ward and Armour”

Wide Spots in the Road: Watt’s Mill, New Santa Fe and Dodson

(originally published 5/9/19) History can be fickle when it comes to what is remembered and what is forgotten. When I wrote the book on Waldo’s history, I realized what a quirk of fate it was that the name Waldo should have survived when there were plenty of other places like Waldo, that didn’t. They allContinue reading “Wide Spots in the Road: Watt’s Mill, New Santa Fe and Dodson”

Faith and Trust Part II: The Case of the Moving Houses

(originally published 5/2/19) Part I of this story, published last week and this, Part II, were originally a feature in a 2017 book I wrote on the history of the Greenway Fields neighborhood – the neighborhood just west of the Brookside Shops. It looked at the relationships of the neighborhood with two churches back inContinue reading “Faith and Trust Part II: The Case of the Moving Houses”

Paved With Good Intentions: The Jackson County Plan of 1932

(originally published 4/18/19) In my long professional life, I’ve created all sorts of plans for all sorts of groups. Plans are great – done well, they’re a roadmap. What I haven’t done often– or even seen often – is a report on what happened once the plan was done. The reason is simple – plansContinue reading “Paved With Good Intentions: The Jackson County Plan of 1932”

Step into Spring: The Plaza Walking Tour

(originally published 3/21/19) A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of working on a project to create a “walking guide” for the Country Club Plaza. Historic Kansas City led the efforts of a group that included journalists, academics, architectural experts, HKC leadership… and me, and created a beautiful full-color booklet, with something forContinue reading “Step into Spring: The Plaza Walking Tour”