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City planner, developer, community builder, and realtor, Kansas Citian Jesse Clyde Nichols (1880-1949) was one of America'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.