Continuing “The Brookside Story” – Notes on Neighborhoods

Still reading LaDene Morton’s recent book “The Brookside Story” , and today I’ll write a few words about the Morningside Park subdivision and the various architecture styles found here. It’s so interesting to read a few pages..then go out and actually drive the areas she writes about.  Knowing more about the history of my neighborhood makes me appreciate it so much more.

Brookside had its beginnings in the early 1920s, and JC Nichols recognized the importance of the automobile.  He designed Brookside to be car-friendly…which is ironic, as today so many people want to live in Brookside specifically because it’s such a walkable community!  Nichols published a brochure, “A Scenic Route Through the Country Club District” for “pleasure driving” . This map is found in the book, and  takes you through Brookside, Mission Hills and the Plaza. One interesting note, at the top of the map is a headline:  200 ACRES RESTRICTED, which I assume means the area was for whites only.  The book doesn’t address the headline.

As Nichols was plotting the home sites, he created various  middle, upper-middle and high income housing but in a subtle way:  the larger, more expensive homes are to the west, and the homes gradually change as you go east.  The houses and lot sizes are different, but the exterior attractiveness of the homes are similar–there are no very sharp divisions.  To this day, home values are determined not only by lot and house size, but how far east or west of Main the home is located.  This plan ensured a variety of middle and upper income bracket residents for the area. 

Another residential developer for the area was Fletcher Cowhert, a colleague of Nichol’s. Although much older than JC, he too had travelled extensively in Europe and was impressed with how cities were planned there.  Fletcher created one of my favorite subdivisions in Brookside, Morningside Park.  General boundaries are 59th to 62 Streets, west of Oak and east of Brookside Boulevard.  The most  prestigious address in this area is on Morningside Drive–a wide street of larger homes and lots.  The homes surrounding Morningside Drive are still beautiful, but a bit more modest. Fletcher built 6140 Morningside Drive, a magnificent home,  for his son, Fletcher Jr

6140 Morningside Drive

There is a brochure cited in the Morton’s book, “Coherd Built Homes” that Fletcher developed to sell the subdivision.  It’s motto was ” The Standard of Value” and featured photos of the finished homes.  Inside, you can read this copy:  “The high degree of beauty and permanence in Coherd Built Homes has been and will be steadfastly maintained” .  Still true today–this is one of the prettiest areas of Brookside.

Next up in the book–details on retail development in Brookside through the years.  The photos are fascinating and oh so nostalgic.  I’m heading to the Kansas City Library next week to copy some of these photos for myself–they will be great wall decor in my house!

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Brookside – How It All Began

A new book about Brookside came out last Fall and I’m finally getting around to reading it.  Titled “The Brookside Story – Shops of Every Necessary Character” by LaDene Morton, this short but well-researched book tells the history of one of the nation’s first shopping districts built outside of a downtown area.  For as much as I love Brookside..I didn’t know that much about its history.  Shame on me–but that’s resolved now!  I’m not quite finished with the book but wanted to share a few facts that surprised me.

*Brookside was started in 1919, before the Country Club Plaza.  I had always assumed the city grew south from downtown and Brookside followed the Plaza. But JC Nichols created his plan for the Brookside shops to serve the residents of the Country Club District–“America’s first planned subdivision to be built on a massive scale” according to the book. 

*The Country Club District was created to attract wealthy residents from Quality Hill, who were moving due to the growth of the downtown area.  Nichols wanted to attract these people to the Brookside area to keep property values stable.  He wanted the families who moved here to stay here–and so designed the winding boulevards, tree lined streets, large and smaller homes with easy access to shops and other amenities. This was his “‘plan for permanence”.

*The Brookside Shops were born in 1919, when Nichols first broke ground at the northeast corner of 63rd and Brookside Blvd. Over the next ten years, more shops were added. In a very shrewd move, he first sold a lot on 63rd to the City of Kansas City MO for construction of a new fire and police station, knowing that this basic public service would be essential to attract residents.  The Station Building now houses The Fiddly Fig.

I’ll write about  more interesting Brookside stories in future posts.  If you are a fan of Brookside,  buy this book!  Visit the website,, for more information. 

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