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J. C. Nichols and the Shaping of Kansas City

Innovation in Planned Residential Communities

William S. Worley

Publication Year: 1993

Often synonymous with Kansas City is the beautiful and enchanting Country Club Plaza.  This upscale midtown shopping center and surrounding suburban community-which remain the places to shop and live nearly sixty years after their construction-are a testament to the creative genius of J.C. Nichols.  Now available in paper, J.C. Nichols and the Shaping of Kansas City chronicles the success of the man who forever changed the shape of Kansas City and has influenced urban development throughout the United States.

Published by: University of Missouri Press


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-xii

This study of J. C. Nichols and the beginnings of planned residential development in the United States is based on original research using available company records from the J. C. Nichols Company, the Roland Park Company records at Cornell University, and the verbatim...


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pp. xiii-xxv

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pp. 1-10

The availability of land for ever more intensive and economically productive use was a central feature of United States history from the beginnings of European exploration. The lure of land ownership served as the single most important magnet for English and European immigrants from the sixteenth...

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1. Prototypes

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pp. 11-36

The processes of subdividing urban land and building houses were usually two separate business activities in the nineteenth century. This differentiation was mainly the result of the types of work done and the businesses most closely related to these functions. In addition, the fact that land could be readily financed with a small...

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2. The City of Kansas

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pp. 37-62

When readers of the Kansas City Times opened their newspapers Thanksgiving morning, 1984, they discovered an entire section of the issue devoted to an analysis of the current importance and historical background of the J. C. Nichols Company. The piece was of interest on that particular day partly because the...

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3. The Country Club District

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pp. 63-88

Jesse Clyde Nichols started building houses in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1903 with a small subdivision created by an earlier subdivider. It lay just north of Quindaro Boulevard, one of the major roadways in the northern part of town. The Kansas River had flooded that summer, causing many working men and their...

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4. The Planning of an American Residential Community

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pp. 89-123

The similarity of these two statements is not a coincidence. Both speakers were interested in encouraging real estate brokers and agents to support the possibilities of what they understood as city planning at that time. Nichols was a realtor himself, calling upon his fellow realtors to take up the good fight to plan carefully...

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5. The Protection of the 1,000 Acres Restricted

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pp. 124-155

J. C. Nichols often spoke of "protecting" his neighborhoods. Many of his 1908 advertisements used the phrase that provides the chapter title above. What was implied by protection in this instance was not the strong-arm tactics of organized criminals; rather, it was the shielding of property values in certain residential...

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6. The Essence of Planning for Permanence: The Homeowners' Associations

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pp. 156-177

J. C. Nichols thoughtfully observed the nine other real estate developers seated about the table. They were winding down a series of meetings in the late winter of 1919 about the future of their life's work--the development of high-cost subdivisions. Outside a window in the meeting room he could see...

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7. Nichols and the Homebuilding Industry

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pp. 178-231

At the end of the Depression decade, the J. C. Nichols Company architect offered his views on home design to a reporter for the National Real Estate Journal. Edward Tanner had been with the company since 1919 and had witnessed all but four of the company's biggest years in the homebuilding business...

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8. The Heart of the Planned Subdivision: The Shopping Center

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pp. 232-263

The impact of retail businesses locating near his subdivisions had worried Nichols when he first started large developments in 1908. By 1919, automobiles were becoming commonplace, and wealthy people could drive several miles to shop where they wished. If the shops were well designed and sufficiently separated...

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9. Advertising or Spirit Building?: Community Features in a Planned Subdivision

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pp. 264-286

One of the aspects of real estate subdivision development that J. C. Nichols enjoyed most and accomplished best was the creation of a community spirit among his residents. This type of activity was designed to accomplish at least two goals: to build a high degree of satisfaction among those who were already lot...

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10. J. C. Nichols: The Man and the Myth

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pp. 287-305

Planned residential communities have been called "a glory of American life." They constitute "one of the most significant contributions to American urbanism as [they serve] to make real our most extravagant and lyrical fantasies." J. C. Nichols was not the first developer to use this controlled form of urban growth...


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pp. 307-318


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pp. 319-324

E-ISBN-13: 9780826273093
E-ISBN-10: 0826273092
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826209269
Print-ISBN-10: 0826209262

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: maps, tables, 47
Publication Year: 1993