The efforts of Henry Ford to purchase the government facilities at Muscle Shoals in the 1920s attracted much attention from real estate developers across the nation. They believed that Ford would build manufacturing plants here and create great opportunities for growth. One of those developers was John J. Nyhoff, of Troy, NY, who left a major imprint on the City of Sheffield. He erected substantial commercial buildings and quality subdivisions along Jackson Highway that are still in use today.
Wilson Dam was incomplete and the nitrate plants were standing idle in 1922 when Nyhoff began to invest in local Corner (see photo), an automobile dealership just across the street, a furniture store with 32,000 square feet of floor space, a funeral home, Elks Home & Club House, and the magnificent three-story Washington Terrace Apartments. All are standing today, but a couple of the vacant buildings are badly in need of repairs.
Other Nyhoff enterprises included a Tea House and a seafood restaurant. In 1934, it was announced that plans had been completed for a first-class, nine-story hotel to be erected near the Elks club building. Although funds were available, construction on the hotel never began.
Nyhoff was active in community affairs. He organized the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and strongly supported operation of Wilson Dam and the nitrate plants. In 1927, he was one of 50 citizens of the Tri-Cities who went to Washington to argue for part of the power then being sold to Alabama Power to be made available for local use. He purchased the Tri-Cities Daily newspaper and published it for a while. His business offices were located in the street level of the “flat iron” building at Nyhoff Corner. Nyhoff had business interests in other states and did not live in Sheffield on a regular basis. When he was in town, Nyhoff resided in an apartment above his offices. During the 1920s, Nyhoff’s brother, Herman, served as his property manager. Eugene Donsbach, of Troy, NY, was hired by Nyhoff in 1932 to be accountant and manager of properties.
Nyhoff was born in Michigan, the son of Dutch immigrants. Before coming to Sheffield, he had engaged successfully in real estate development in New York where Ford had a plant. He was an ardent Democrat and ran for Congress three times, but Nyhoff was never elected. Nyhoff died suddenly at his home in East Green Bush, NY on Nov. 18, 1939 at age 56. He devoted much of his life to the up-building of Sheffield and was a firm believer in the future of the Muscle Shoals area. We salute John J. Nyhoff for his outstanding contributions to our community.