Kansas City – Not the Cradle of America’s Housing Segregation

I listen to Steve Kraske’s Up to Date on KCUR almost every day. I found the May 2nd conversation particularly fascinating. Steve’s guests were members of Kansas City’s reparations committee who, over the next year, are going to begin the process of actually addressing how reparations can best be made. I don’t envy them theirContinue reading “Kansas City – Not the Cradle of America’s Housing Segregation”

Kansas City’s Spirit: Accomplishing the Impossible

(KC 1900 Series #18) (Top images are just three of the sketches Norman Rockwell tried out for the painting, The Kansas City Spirit.) We’ve already demonstrated that the phrase “Kansas City Spirit,” did not originate with the Convention Hall of 1900, but besides dispelling that misconception, I’d hoped to find a fresher, more pertinent meaningContinue reading “Kansas City’s Spirit: Accomplishing the Impossible”

Whatever Happened To…?

(KC 1900 Series: # 17) (Photos above: A view of each of the 1900 Convention Halls, before and after the fire, left and right respectively) More than a century has passed since the Convention Hall disaster and subsequent triumph. Such a time gap fairly begs for the chance to see what has happened to theContinue reading “Whatever Happened To…?”

The 1900 Convention: Kansas City in the Spotlight

(KC 1900 Series: # 15) And so the story finally reaches the day on which Kansas Citians had for so long pinned their hopes and dreams. Many had been convinced of its importance because they were assured that word would be sent far and wide about their wonderful city, how miraculous its resurrection had been,Continue reading “The 1900 Convention: Kansas City in the Spotlight”

Causes and Effects

(KC 1900 Series: #14) (photo above: In the background, the gutted remains of the fire’s victims. From Left to right, Second Presbyterian Church (steeple & attached), unidentified residential or commercial building on Broadway, Lathrop School, Convention Hall (long row of arches), partial view of the Williamson block flats directly north of the hall. In theContinue reading “Causes and Effects”

The Kansas City Convention Hall Fire, Moment by Moment

(KC 1900 Series: # 13) The Great Kansas City Convention Hall Fire is about to start. And those who were there will tell the fire’s story. The accidental witnesses, the denizens of the boarding houses and shops in the vicinity, the newspaper reporters, the civic leaders all have a view to share. There were soContinue reading “The Kansas City Convention Hall Fire, Moment by Moment”

Photo Essay: Before the Fire

(KC 1900 Series #10) Rather than burden each post with all the terrific images I’ve found that are connected to those stories, I’m including “photo essays” of additional image material I found for the respective stories. The first essay, below, includes images related to the first nine stories that take us from the motives behindContinue reading “Photo Essay: Before the Fire”

The Short Event-filled Life of the First Convention Hall

(KC 1900 Series: # 9) For those in the day-to-day trenches of it, the work on the convention hall had been a struggle to find time to breathe. The Convention Hall initiative had been announced in June 1897, but the fundraising work had begun some weeks before that. The site selection officially started that fall,Continue reading “The Short Event-filled Life of the First Convention Hall”

Design and Construction

(KC 1900 Series: # 8) With the site selection completed, the Convention Hall Committee was ready to precede with design. In late December, 1897, the committee made public its invitation for any local architect to submit a design. The design process the committee would follow was somewhat unusual. The submittal was required to include floorContinue reading “Design and Construction”

The “KC 1900 Series” Begins

KC Backstories Changes Its Approach To Loyal Readers, and friends Old and New KCBackstories has been pretty much idle since COVID hit. I think the pandemic gave us all pause on a lot of things in our lives – and for me it was my writing. Ready for something different than what I had focusedContinue reading “The “KC 1900 Series” Begins”

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”

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”

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”

More than Lights: A Plaza Christmas

(originally published 12/19/19) It was inevitable. These past two weeks I managed to find some unusual views of Kansas City at Christmas, declaring we were more than the Plaza Lights. Still, Christmas in Kansas City will always be associated with those lights, so it was inevitable I had to end this three-week series there. ButContinue reading “More than Lights: A Plaza Christmas”

The Train Out of Westport: Part 1 – The Waldo “Dummy” Line

(originally published 11/7/19) Younger or newer Kansas Citians may only know it as the Trolley Track Trail. Long-time residents know it as the Country Club District street car line, south Kansas City’s connection to the early local rail system. And to those long gone, it was a reason to speculate on land, or build aContinue reading “The Train Out of Westport: Part 1 – The Waldo “Dummy” Line”

KC’s Board Track: Part 2- The Price of Speed

(originally published 9/26/19) Last time, in Part 1, we looked to 1922, and the latest civic endeavor to put Kansas City on the map. The Kansas City Speedway, a racing complex to rival the best tracks in the country, was one of only a couple of dozen in the country where the racing surface itselfContinue reading “KC’s Board Track: Part 2- The Price of Speed”

“Bloody Lane” – The Civil War along Wornall Road

(originally published 1/31/19) Despite its sobriquet as “The Gettysburg of the West,” the story of the Battle of Westport remains largely unknown, even locally. Likely if you’ve heard of it you understandably assume it took place in Westport, which it didn’t. If you know a bit more, you know its signature battle took place aroundContinue reading ““Bloody Lane” – The Civil War along Wornall Road”

Brookside’s Big Fire: The Brookside Theatre Building

(originally published 1/24/19) Having a theatre in Brookside had been a big part of the dream of Harry Jacobs, the developer who, in 1937, built it on most of the east side of what is today Brookside Plaza, one block east of Brookside Boulevard. Jacobs called it the Brookside Theatre Building, because in addition toContinue reading “Brookside’s Big Fire: The Brookside Theatre Building”

From Madness to Murder – The Uhls Sanitarium: Part II

(originally published 1/17/19) The last post recounted discovering a hidden history in Johnson County – the Uhls Sanitarium, now the site of the Kansas Christian College near 74th and Metcalf. I learned a little about the Uhls Sanitarium, its founder and how it operated. I could have stopped there, but researching newspapers of the periodContinue reading “From Madness to Murder – The Uhls Sanitarium: Part II”

Lost in an “Insane” Asylum – The Uhls Sanitarium: Part I

(originally published 1/10/19) Research is a treacherous business. It’s so easy to get lost. Easy, because there are so many ways to get lost. The first part of this story is an example of one kind of getting off track, specifically getting “into the weeds.” When I get into the weeds, it means I’m nowContinue reading “Lost in an “Insane” Asylum – The Uhls Sanitarium: Part I”

Brookside: Shop Beautiful’s Basement Secret

(originally published 1/3/19) I’m excited to be appearing on KCUR’s Up-to-Date with Steve Kraske tomorrow (1/3/19), during the 11:30 to noon half of the show. I will be supporting the story of Shop Beautiful in Brookside, a retail institution there since 1936 that will be closing at the end of January, (their Overland Park storeContinue reading “Brookside: Shop Beautiful’s Basement Secret”

Kansas City Newspapers – 1919

(originally published 12/27/2019) Last week’s look at the 1918 Kansas City Times Christmas edition showed how, despite the passing of a century, there is much that is the same in the events, themes, and poignant moments that are part of the holiday season here. This week looks at something that has changed dramatically, and permanentlyContinue reading “Kansas City Newspapers – 1919”

The Refugee’s Story

(originally published 12/12/18) When I first posted this on the original website, it was not coincidentally at a time when the world-wide refugee crisis was at a peak. The crisis is now no less critical, but I offer it in keeping with the current season of holidays around the globe, and Arsenio’s hopeful story. IncludedContinue reading “The Refugee’s Story”

Camp Nichols on Ward Parkway

(originally published 12/6/18) With the 100th anniversary of the first Armistice Day still in our rearview mirror, I wanted to share once more this sketch of a local regiment and the small camp it occupied for a few critical months in 1917. The Third Missouri Infantry Regiment was first organized in 1888, and spent theContinue reading “Camp Nichols on Ward Parkway”

J.C. Nichols’ “Don’t”s for Salespeople

(originally published 12/4/18) Just because it’s the shopping season… In 1933, J.C. Nichols circulated his “Don’ts for Salespeople” list among the Country Club Plaza businesses to be shared with their employees. The list is a microcosm of Nichols’ most defining characteristics. He was hands-on with every aspect of his vast, vertically integrated real estate empire,Continue reading “J.C. Nichols’ “Don’t”s for Salespeople”