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Kansas City, Missouri, Parks Board Votes To Remove J.C. Nichols' Name From Iconic Fountain And Parkway

The J.C. Nichols Fountain in Mill Creek Park was bought by the Nichols family after the legendary real-estate developer's death and reopened in 1960 bearing Nichols's name.
Julie Denesha/The Kansas City Public Library Collection
The J.C. Nichols Fountain in Mill Creek Park was bought by the Nichols family after the legendary real-estate developer's death and reopened in 1960 bearing Nichols's name.

A protest movement against social injustice and racism had renewed scrutiny on Nichols' role in helping create Kansas City's racial dividing lines.

The Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to remove J.C. Nichols’ name from the iconic fountain in Mill Creek Park near the Country Club Plaza and the parkway nearby that also bears Nichols' name.

The vote came after scrutiny of the landmarks' names was heightened following weeks of protests in Kansas City against social injustice, racism and police brutality. As a real estate developer a century ago, Nichols instituted housing policies that helped create Kansas City’s stark racial divides that persist to this day.

The measure removes Nichols’ name from the fountain itself and renames nearby J.C. Nichols Parkway to its original name, Mill Creek Parkway.

Earlier Tuesday, the Nichols Family … and the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation … announced their support for renaming the landmarks.

The Nichols Family, along with the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation, has come out in support of renaming the J.C. Nichols Fountain and Parkway near Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza.

There has been a renewed call to rename the landmark following protests across the metro sparked by George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis in May. The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Board is now considering a proposal to rename the fountain and parkway to remove the name of the controversial real estate developer.

Foundation president Kay Callison says her father, Miller Nichols, would be proud to see them support the cause.

“We have a great passion for the Kansas City spirit, and for the people in every corner of our community who bring it to life. It is important to each of us that we publicly endorse the name change for the greater good of the City we love,” said Callison in a statement Tuesday.

J.C. Nichols is credited with transforming Kansas City more than a century ago through the creation of the Plaza and designing many of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. But historians say his policies barring African-Americans, Jews and other ethnic and racial minorities from living in his subdivisions are to blame for the racial divides that still exist throughout Kansas City today.

Mark Callison, grandson of Miller Nichols, says the renaming movement is a defining moment for the city.

"Our family stands squarely behind the spirit of diversity, equality and social justice that has taken hold in our region and in our nation," Mark Callison said in the same statement released by the Foundation.

"My grandfather Miller taught us these values. The best way we knew to communicate them was to say to Kansas Citians from every corner of this community, ‘Kansas City, the Nichols Family stands with you.’"

The Foundation also says it will present a check to the City of Fountains Foundation for $100,000 for the continued maintenance and support of the fountain, which stands in Mill Creek Park just outside the Plaza.

There have been two public sessions to discuss renaming the fountain. Jack Holland, President of Kansas City Parks and Recreation, said a decision would be reached within 30 days.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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