One of Wichita’s fiercest preservationists and a protector of its history has died.
Lawyer and preservationist James Matheus “Jim” Guy helped champion efforts to save Wichita’s landmarks and oldest neighborhoods for more than four decades.
In the mid- to late 1970s, frustrated over local government decisions, the Midtown Citizens Association made frequent and noisy trips to City Commission meetings. Mr. Guy was the president of the group.
Later, he and his wife, Cindy Sundell-Guy, restored and saved the Greiffenstein House — William Greiffenstein, one of the city’s first first settlers, is considered the father of Wichita. The Guys bought the largely abandoned property in the 1990s as a fixer-upper.
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Mr. Guy died Thursday. He was 71.
No formal services are planned, according to his wife, Cindy’s, Facebook page.
Mr. Guy was born Aug. 26, 1945. He is a 1963 graduate of East High School and in 1967 received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas. In 1970, he earned a law degree from Washburn College in Topeka.
During the 1970s, Mr. Guy worked as an attorney for Federal Land Bank. He later specialized in adoption, divorce and family law and collaborative family law. He was a Realtor, general counsel and an owner of Century 21 Consolidated Realty Inc., Wichita, since 1986. Century 21 Consolidated merged with Century 21 Wilson in the early 1990s and later became Century 21 Advantage.
Through the years, Mr. Guy became actively involved in Wichita’s history and preservation.
“Nobody has ever been as vocal about their problems as we have,” Mr. Guy told an Eagle reporter in November 1984. “In the beginning, we had to be. It was a necessity. Nobody knew who we were. We had to be a little outrageous, we really had to. People had to know who we were. The City Commission had to know that we were going to be a force.”
He was a founding member of the Kansas Preservation Alliance, Topeka; a board member of the Kansas chapter of the Victorian Society in America; a board member of Old Cowtown Museum; and served on the Skinner Lee Victorian House Museum board and on the Wichita History Landmarks Preservation Council.
“He was always a very eloquent speaker,” said fellow Wichita preservationist Dale Churchman. “He could put things into words and make them interesting. He worked as hard as anybody to save our buildings.”
Indeed, there was no one quite like Jim Guy, said former City Council member and Midtown preservationist Sharon Fearey.
“He was the epitome of historic preservation in Wichita,” Fearey said. “He was a walking history book. I remember once there was a film put together and he had a quote in there where he said, ‘We are not trying to save every old building, just the ones we still have left.’ I thought it was appropriate because Wichita had torn down so many.”
In 1994, Mr. Guy and fellow preservationists Lois Ann Newman and attorney Greg Kite filed a lawsuit with the city of Wichita trying to prevent the demolition of the 17-story Allis Hotel. The historic hotel where John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley had slept was destroyed on Dec. 22, 1996.
“Jim was a gentleman’s gentle man,” said friend and fellow preservationist Dudley Toevs. “He and Cindy have long been a strong voice in the community for preservation and heritage.”