National Geographic : 1976 Jul
firemen's strike last fall. Police, servicemen, and youths teamed to meet the crisis. across the nation for more than half a century. The plaza, begun in 1922, was the nation's first major suburban shopping center. No antiseptic monstrosity of cold glass and con crete, it is mellow buff brick and red tile, with courtyards and fountains and towers copied from Spain. The plaza, covering 15 city blocks, is the dream of the late J. C. Nichols. "My father believed that beauty should be part of everyday life, even a shopping trip," said Miller Nichols, his like-minded son, who heads the real-estate firm that owns the plaza. "In a time when outdoor privies were still common, he felt a backyard should be as at tractive as a front yard. He promoted boule vards, curving drives, and fountains." Such ideas distinguish 8,000 acres of hous ing developed by the firm, making southwest Kansas City and adjacent Johnson County, Kansas, a showplace-one of the nation's greatest expanses of beautiful homes. At Christmastime many twinkle with out door lights, as does the Spanish skyline of the plaza (pages 138-9). Last year some 70,000 came to watch the lighting ceremonies. From our room atop the Raphael Hotel, Virginia and I looked down through the snowy evening to the festival of lights, the holiday crowd. From somewhere voices caroled "... tidings of comfort and joy..." and the fragment floated up into the snow reflected brightness like a benediction on the night. Christmas had found us. East of the plaza clusters the city's cultural heartland: the Nelson Gallery, the Art Insti tute, Rockhurst College, the Music Conserv atory, the burgeoning University of Missouri at Kansas City. Kansas City, Heartland U.S.A.