FEBRUARY 2007 – In February 1950 Jesse Clyde (J. C.) Nichols died in his Kansas City home. Real estate professionals and builders mourned “the dean of real estate,” “the inspiring force for modern city planning” and “one of the most beloved men in his industry.”
Nichols was only 25 in 1905 when he began work on Kansas City’s world-famous Country Club district with a 10-acre tract. Before his death 45 years later 50,000 people lived in the district’s 5,000 acres. “We should build homes good for a hundred or a hundred and fifty years” he said, “homes that don’t have to be torn down and rebuilt.”
Nichols believed in the future of cities. “We can make urban life in our American cities the very highest attainment of human interest.” For 22 years he served on the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, working on the planning of metro Washington. When failing health forced him to resign in 1948, President Harry Truman held the resignation in abeyance for several weeks hoping Nichols would change his mind.
The National Real Estate and Building Journal remembered him as “fired with blend of sentiment and business instinct.” Two months before his death the Kansas City Star reported “Nichols gives the impression of a man who would like to relax and sit around being a good fellow- just as soon as he gets some fifteen projects off his mind.”