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…?”

Auld Lang Syne

(KC 1900 Series: #16) What with the string of events that had just transpired, the Democratic Convention had become the finish line for Kansas City. Keeping focus on the do-or-die task at hand made the successful completion of the 1900 Democratic Convention the big “ta-da” moment the city needed to pinch themselves into recognizing thatContinue reading “Auld Lang Syne”

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 Mayor & The Chief

(KC 1900 Series # 12) At the time of the Convention Hall Fire, Kansas City was home to two extraordinary men who were in a position to be influential in the story of the Convention Hall fire and resurrection. One was at the start of a long and brilliant political career that would put himContinue reading “The Mayor & The Chief”

Courting the Democrats

(KC 1900 Series: # 11) The Industrial Revolution. Reconstruction. The Gilded Age. The Progressive Era. At least four major periods of American history are packed into the last quarter of the 19th century, filled with significant and sometimes contradictory events, like the wave of European immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Act; like the 15th AmendmentContinue reading “Courting the Democrats”

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”

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”

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”


Kansas City Builds an Economy (KC 1900 Series: # 2) Here where these rocky bluffs meet and turn aside the sweeping current of this mighty river; here where the Missouri, after pursuing her southern course for nearly two thousand miles, turns eastward to meet the Mississippi, a great manufacturing and commercial community will congregate andContinue reading “Crossroads”

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””

KC in WWII: The Sunflower Ordnance Plant, the Olathe Naval Air Base, and the Darby Shipyards

Part 3 of 3 (originally published 6/25/20) Last week, we looked at three plants that dominated the Kansas City area’s defense plant industry. This week’s offerings are no less important to the war effort, but less familiary to many and in some ways, hidden in plain sight. SUNFLOWER ORDNANCE WORKS – DeSoto, Kansas Location: WhatContinue reading “KC in WWII: The Sunflower Ordnance Plant, the Olathe Naval Air Base, and the Darby Shipyards”

KC in WWII: The Fairfax, Pratt and Whitney and Lake City Defense Plants

Part 2 of 3 (originally published 6/18/20) Last week the first in a 3-part series of Kansas City’s WWII experience laid the background on why the Kansas City area was able to land so many important defense plant contracts, considering the long tradition of military production plants located predominantly on the coasts. For this weekContinue reading “KC in WWII: The Fairfax, Pratt and Whitney and Lake City Defense Plants”

Fairyland Park 1940

(originally published 4/9/20) I’ve written several pieces about amusement parks in Kansas City on both sides of the state line, but mostly turn-of-the-century parks, including one of the so-called Negro parks, Pastime Park. Kiddieland in Waldo is the only park I’ve written about that I imagine anyone who reads this might possibly remember. But theContinue reading “Fairyland Park 1940”

Of Witches, Elves, and Chivalry: Brookside’s Christmas Pageant of 1921

(originally published 12/12/19) Christmas came early for me, in the form of a flood of great Christmas-related photos and stories. I hadn’t planned to dedicate most of this month’s posts to the holiday, but this bounty of history changed my mind. I started last week with a photo montage about Christmas events in Kansas CityContinue reading “Of Witches, Elves, and Chivalry: Brookside’s Christmas Pageant of 1921”

Christmas in Kansas City – More than Plaza Lights

(originally published 12/5/19) Understandably, when Kansas City pictures itself at Christmas, those pictures are often of the Country Club Plaza lights. Celebrating its 90th year of official lighting (decorating actually began informally as early as 1923), it’s considered one of “the” lighting displays in America. While the Plaza lights are a tradition to embrace, KansasContinue reading “Christmas in Kansas City – More than Plaza Lights”

Halloween, and other Lost Parties of the Country Club Plaza

(originally published 10/31/19) Holidays and history are close companions. Holidays have their own histories of course. Holidays are about tradition, and tradition is history made a part of culture. Culture at every level, from the community-wide to the personal levels, when holidays are the frameworks for memories. Christmas with family, fireworks with friends, Halloween inContinue reading “Halloween, and other Lost Parties of the Country Club Plaza”

Kansas City Park Series – #5 (Final): Swope Park – A Park for the Whole City

(originally published 8/29/19) Kansas Citians started asking for city parks around the mid 1870s, which makes sense, considering that this was the beginning of Kansas City’s railroad, stockyard and industrial growth. The city’s population was growing, too, so much so that any sense of open space in Kansas City’s early footprint (today’s downtown and oldContinue reading “Kansas City Park Series – #5 (Final): Swope Park – A Park for the Whole City”

Building Nature: Foot Paths, Bridle Trails, and Picnic Fires in the Country Club District

(originally published 7/25/19) Two posts ago, I wrote about the public art – statues, fountains, reflecting pools, etc. – that J.C. Nichols incorporated into the Country Club District’s residential and commercial development sites. Public art was one of the “community features” he thought important for the District to achieve the status of development he envisioned.Continue reading “Building Nature: Foot Paths, Bridle Trails, and Picnic Fires in the Country Club District”

Another Refugee’s Story: Leon Goodhart and the Country Club Shoe Store

(originally published in 2010 in The Brookside Story: Shops of Every Necessary Character, and in the original KCBackstories FB page, 5/23/19. The following is adapted from the book version) The Country Club Shoe Store – A Family Enterprise This bit of history is not distant to me, though it grows more distant with each passingContinue reading “Another Refugee’s Story: Leon Goodhart and the Country Club Shoe Store”

Brookside’s St. Patrick’s Day Warm-Up Parade: The Origins of a Tradition

(originally published 3/7/19) The 1980s were a precarious time in Brookside’s life, when securing Brookside’s future would require the tenants to take the lead, to come up with new ideas, to find the energy to get things done, and to refuse to give up or be told no. The merchants association needed more than someoneContinue reading “Brookside’s St. Patrick’s Day Warm-Up Parade: The Origins of a Tradition”

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”

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