Lighting Up the Plaza for the 77th Time


Every Thanksgiving night, the Country Club Plaza district in Kansas City, Missouri sets aglow amid thousands of revelers. The older, faux-Spanish low-rise edifices are adorned with miles upon miles of Christmas lights.


The first iterations of what is now known largely as “The Plaza” were built in the 1920s in the formerly swampish southern nether-reaches of the city. The area today serves primarily as an upscale shopping and restaurant district, as well as a home for both condominium owners and apartment renters. Offices are now prevalent as well.


The tradition of strewing Christmas lights to and fro began diminutively in 1925 when one sole Plaza retailer set up a strand of sixteen Christmas lights over a doorway. The trend then escalated from there, with the first offical lighting ceremony taking place in 1930, according to the Country Club Plaza website. I ride my bicycle through the area on the way to and from work every weekday.

The Plaza also anchors a modest- but nevertheless pleasant skyline of taller structures surrounding the initial 1920s development, creating a “bowl effect.” During downtown KCMO’s lamentable decline from the 1960s to the 1990s, the Plaza served as a substitute anchor for the city’s public realm.
Click here to view the remainder of the photos I collected at this year’s lighting ceremony

This entry was written by Eric Bowers , posted on Friday November 24 2006at 09:11 am , filed under Architecture, United States and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

5 Responses to “Lighting Up the Plaza for the 77th Time”

  • Christopher DeWolf says:

    Nice photos, Eric. I’m curious — is the Plaza centrally managed? I see a lot of residential near the Plaza, like in your first photo, but on the whole the uses seem pretty segregated.

  • Eric Bowers says:

    The retailing portions of the Plaza are managed by Highwood Properties. They rather irritate me with their stupid restrictions saying you can’t take pictures of the storefronts or ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. Without a doubt, the Plaza would blossom into a better neighborhood if there was a less centralized ownership and management.

    You could say that the land uses are segregated in as far as there aren’t that many vertical plane building use mixtures, other than stuff like office over retail, office over restaurant, and so on. As far as I can recall, all of the residential properties on the Plaza are just that, entirely residential, though in very close proximity to the retail, restaurants, hotels, and offices. I would venture a guess that this kind of urban planning is rather common in American midwest cities. The term “mixed-use” really can be a loaded phrase implying many different things.

  • Barbara Whitt says:

    Is there any chance that a grocery store could be put in the space formerly occupied by Meiners at 48th and Jefferson, perhaps a Trader Joe’s?

  • Chadwick says:

    God, I forgot just how beautiful Kansas City can be… I moved to Los Angeles about 5 years ago and we’re probably gonna move back to KC next year. I know the job market sucks for people in web design such as myself… but I miss KC bad. I love LA, don’t get me wrong… but it’s too expensive and too crowded. LA is just not worth the money.

    When we left KC we couldn’t wait to get out, it’s funny how you miss things once they are gone. Funny how we take things for granted.

    Plus I miss them summer trips to the Ozarks, Spirit Fest, the Blues and Jazz Fest, etc…

  • Chadwick says:

    OMG Barbra!!! YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD. Me and my wife we’re just asking about Trader Joes. I am curious if there are any Trader Joes in KC. The 5 years here in LA has made me accustomed to Organic Foods from real grocery stores.