University Press of Kansas Logo

The J. C. Nichols Chronicle

The Authorized Story of the Man and His Company, 1880–1994

Robert Pearson and Brad Pearson

336 pages, 107 photographs, 7 x 10
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-0685-6, $25.00

Book Cover ImageCity planner, developer, community builder, and realtor, Kansas Citian Jesse Clyde Nichols (1880–1949) was one of Ameria's most influential entrepreneurs in twentieth-century land development. Adapting the railroad and streetcar suburb to the automobile age, Nichols helped to shape not only his hometown but also the nation. He pioneered the development of both permanently stable (upper middle-class) residential neighborhoods and (in 1923) of the automobile-oriented shopping center, which became the prototype for the postwar shopping mall. As early as 1940, he also initiated mass-produced, mass-market suburban developments. Attesting to his enduring legacy in Kansas City are the Country Club District, a model community of beautiful homes; the Country Club Plaza, a seventy-year-old mecca for shoppers; and a host of well-preserved suburban communities south of the downtown.

In addition to his impact on living spaces, Nichols contributed to the social, cultural, and economic life of Kansas City. The Pearsons make clear that he was the driving force behind the Liberty Memorial, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kansas City University (now the University of Missouri at Kansas City) and the Midwest Research Institute. Active in public service both locally and nationally during the last third of his life, Nichols helped to bring industry to the Plains states and was the man most responsible for making the Missouri River navigable.

The authorized story of the man and his company is based on family papers, company records, and archival sources. In addition the authors have drawn on interviews with the Nichols family, company associates and officials, and civic leaders in Kansas City and elsewhere. Lavishly illustrated, the chronicle provides the reader with an insider's view of J. C. Nichols's life, his legacy, and his family.

"Impressive. The Pearsons tell the story of Nichols and his company in more detail than anyone else. In the process, they explain Nichols' guiding philosophy and put events into the context of their times. This book stands as a statement by the founder and his heirs and successors about engineering the good life in the suburbs, about uplifting the tone of community life, about the relationships between community institutions and Nichols' philanthropies and business interests, even about family values and business ethics. It contains explanations and vignettes, I feel sure, that will become a part of future histories of mid-America. Kansas Citians and scholars alike will find this authorized account very useful."--Richard D. McKinzie, coauthor of At the River's Bend: A History of Kansas City, Independence, and Jackson County, Missouri

ROBERT PEARSON and BRAD PEARSON are professional writers.

Distributed by the University Press of Kansas for the Country Club Plaza Press.

Facebook button