In Memoriam: John G. Thorpe
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News came early yesterday morning that one of the pillars of the Wright preservation community, architect John G. Thorpe, passed away on Monday, January 25, 2016. John had an immense impact on the preservation of so many Frank Lloyd Wright (and other significant Prairie School architects' buildings) that many would not still be standing if it were not for his tireless and generous efforts. John was a dear friend and ardent supporter of PrairieMod and...
John had an immense impact on the preservation of so many Frank Lloyd Wright (and other significant Prairie School architects' buildings) that many would not still be standing if it were not for his tireless and generous efforts. John was a dear friend and ardent supporter of PrairieMod and we will miss him.
What follows the jump is the remembrance sent by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. Read other tributes from close friends and organizations he was involved in, including Blair Kamin, members of The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy via their bulletin board, Wright Chat, and from Mark Hertzberg on Wright in Racine. More after the jump...
From the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust's press release:
Preservation architect John Thorpe, who led the charge to save Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park Home and Studio, has died.
Mr. Thorpe was one of the founders of the organization now known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. He led negotiations with the then owner of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio to purchase the property in 1974, restore it to Wright’s original vision and operate it as a historic house museum open to the public.
From 1974 to 1981, Mr. Thorpe lived on the property as he worked on its restoration. As Wright’s Home and Studio made a gradual transition from apartment house to museum, he joked, “I sort of restored myself out of a place to live.”
During that time, Mr. Thorpe and a group of dedicated volunteers carefully peeled back layers in walls, floors and ceilings, uncovering clues that helped these grassroots preservationists accurately restore the Home and Studio. They dubbed themselves the “hole in the wall gang” when they discovered the connecting wall between the home and studio sections of the building.
Karen Sweeney, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s current preservation architect and member of the original preservation team stated, “John Thorpe was the reason I got involved at the Home and Studio so many years ago. He was a great architect who saw problems as challenges to be solved — never backing down, but just moving forward until they were solved. He was also a wonderful mentor to young architects. I will greatly miss his enthusiasm and kind nature.”
After an association with several Chicago firms, Mr. Thorpe opened his own architectural practice in Oak Park in 1984, specializing in restoration of historic homes. His work over the next three decades continued to strengthen the movement to preserve historic homes in Oak Park, which he had initiated at the Home and Studio.
Mr. Thorpe continued to volunteer for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and other organizations charged with preserving Wright’s work. He also served on the House Selection Committee for the annual Wright Plus Architectural Housewalk.
In 2014, Mr. Thorpe received the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Lifetime Service Award.
Chairman of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Board of Directors, John Rafkin stated, “The Home and Studio is truly John’s home. He worked in this community to protect and restore its great architectural heritage, and he has been generous to everyone with his time and his architectural expertise on so many occasions over the years. His integrity and his talent are well known locally and nationally, and I am proud to say he was a personal friend.”
Image copyright Mark Hertzberg