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”

KC in WWII: Defense Plants Come to the Heartland

Part 1 of 3 (originally published 6/11/20) In July 1940, J.C. Nichols, Kansas City’s nationally renowned real estate developer, arrived in Washington D.C., with World War II still just beyond the horizon. At the request of his government, Nichols had agreed to join the ranks of the “dollar-a-year” men – notable corporate and institutional leadersContinue reading “KC in WWII: Defense Plants Come to the Heartland”

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”

Pastime Park: “For the Accomodation of Colored People”

(originally published 2/13/20) All of my books and most of my research have ties to the history of J.C. Nichols and the development of the Country Club District. But that single subject has sent me in a hundred directions of inquiry having little or nothing to do with Nichols. My interest in this week’s topicContinue reading “Pastime Park: “For the Accomodation of Colored People””

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)”

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”

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”

The Train Out of Westport: Part 2 – The Country Club Streetcar Line

(originally published 11/14/19) Last week’s post covered the first of four pieces on the origins of today’s Trolley Track Trail. The growth in Kansas City’s late 19th century gave rise to a small railroad that connected Westport to Waldo and beyond, a line that would continue to be influential for more than a century. ByContinue reading “The Train Out of Westport: Part 2 – The Country Club Streetcar Line”

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”

A Wrong Made Right: In Honor of Yvonne Wilson

(originally published 10/17/19) Tuesday, October 15, 2019 – This morning, I woke to the radio telling me Yvonne Wilson had passed away. Wilson was a long-time local community leader who served in the Missouri State House for ten years, and during that tenure surely everyone living in Kansas City central has benefited from her hardContinue reading “A Wrong Made Right: In Honor of Yvonne Wilson”

Kansas City’s First Flying Field(s): Part 1 – Mission Hills

(originally published 10/3/19) It all started with this little notation on a map – a label for something that was no longer there and that had nothing to do with my current interest in the map. I was researching my book on the Country Club District in Kansas City, when I found this map, whichContinue reading “Kansas City’s First Flying Field(s): Part 1 – Mission Hills”

Kansas City Parks Series – #3: Loose Park

(originally published 8/15/19) “I can’t think of another piece of landscape of similar size where so many things have happened that have been of significance in the story of America.” That quote, from Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough, referred to Jackson County, Missouri. But it’s a phrase that always comes to mind when I thinkContinue reading “Kansas City Parks Series – #3: Loose Park”

“An Outdoor Museum” – Public Art in the Country Club District

(originally published in 2015 in The Country Club District of Kansas City, and on 7/11/19 in KCBackstories.) Growing up in Lawrence, the drive into Kansas City was a regular event. The first thing I understood about where Kansas City was – as in “are we there yet?” – was that I was there when IContinue reading ““An Outdoor Museum” – Public Art in the Country Club District”

Faith and Trust Part I: The Case of the Missing Houses

(originally published 4/25/19) This week’s post is the first of two parts, but was originally a feature in my 2017 book on the history of the Greenway Fields neighborhood – the neighborhood just west of Wornall Road between 61st and 65th Streets. The piece looks at the often-times complicated relationships neighborhoods have with their institutionalContinue reading “Faith and Trust Part I: The Case of the Missing Houses”

Keeping the Past in the Present: The Brookside Shops

(originally published 2/21/19) With this post, KCBackstories began the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Brookside Shops. In 2010, the shops were the subject of my first KC history book, and there had been sufficient and significant changes in the subsequent decade for my publisher, Arcadia Publishing/History Press, to support a revised special anniversaryContinue reading “Keeping the Past in the Present: The Brookside Shops”

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”

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”