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Ed Tanner: He brought ‘wham’ to J.C. Nichols’ Country Club Plaza

Edward Tanner
Edward Tanner

Ed Tanner (1896-1974)

Most Kansas City residents are intimately familiar with the work of Ed Tanner.

After earning a degree in architecture from the University of Kansas, Tanner served as a gunnery instructor during World War I before finding work in 1919 with the J.C. Nichols Co., where he was chief designer until his retirement in 1964. Thanks to his partnership with Nichols, Tanner’s modernist designs flourished.

The Country Club Plaza is Tanner’s best-known collaboration with Nichols, its architecture mirroring that of Seville, Spain. Nationally, publications called the Plaza’s unique appearance “the Nichols towers with that Tanner wham.” He is credited with designing the Plaza Theater, which opened in 1928 and aimed to capture the atmosphere of a Spanish villa. The theater closed in 1999, after which Restoration Hardware moved in.

In addition to the Plaza, Tanner’s prowess can be seen at the Linda Hall Library on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus; the Crestwood Shops; the Village shopping center in Prairie Village; and the Danforth Chapel at the University of Kansas, which was intended as a tribute to his mother. He also designed more than 2,000 houses in the Country Club District and Johnson County.