Joyce Davies Lifetime Preservation Award
Thomas W. Thorpe
In this, Historic Boulder’s 50th anniversary year, the Joyce Davies Lifetime Achievement Award has special meaning somehow. Joyce was Historic Boulder’s first President and she was (and still is!) a force–a strategic thinker, an alliance-builder, a doer, and a preservationist through and through. To us, Tom Thorpe exemplifies these qualities and we are proud to present him with this august award this year.
Tom was inspired by architecture and history as he grew up in the Chicago area. His family loved to go on outings in Chicago to explore both its modern and historic buildings. Tom learned early about the Chicago School of Architecture, a collegial group of many national and international architects who created the nation’s first skyscrapers. Frank Lloyd Wright’s influences were also very prominent, and
many of Wright’s iconic buildings remain in the Chicago area to this day.
With this rich background, Tom and his twin brother John decided early they wanted to be architects, like their father. They both studied and graduated in architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign. Tom was part of the School of Architecture’s first extension branch in France. After his semester’s studies there were complete, Tom traveled on his own to fifteen countries throughout Europe. His focus during this adventure was on European architecture and design. Tom then studied at Columbia University in New York, graduating with a master’s degree in Architecture/Urban Design.
After living and working in Boston and Cambridge, Tom moved to Boulder in 1972 and became a partner in the Carl Worthington Partnership. He worked on architectural projects throughout the U.S. In 1987, he became a co-founder and president of Downing, Thorpe and James, Inc. (now DTJ DESIGN, Inc.) He directed work on the Univ. of Colorado Research Park, Interlocken Business Park, ATLAS Center at CU, One Boulder Plaza, and others. Tom also led a number of projects throughout the U.S. and was a Registered Architect in 32 states. Tom was a founding board member of Downtown Boulder, Inc., and a member of the American Institute of Architects, The National Trust, and Colorado Preservation, Inc.
Tom’s interests in preservation in Colorado were stimulated by the work of Historic Boulder. After HB was formed in 1972, it helped create the city’s Landmarks Ordinance and the Landmarks Board. Tom was appointed in 1976 to the Landmarks Board, where he served for six years, including two as co-chair. From then on, he was involved with Historic Boulder and preservation projects in parallel with his architectural practice. Tom was on HB’s Board, taught in several of its ROAR — Restore Our Architectural Resources classes, chaired the Preservation Committee, and was an advocate for the Downtown Historic District, Boulder Theater preservation, downzoning the Whittier Neighborhood to preserve its historic character, and other projects. Tom purchased, restored, and lived in two houses in the Whittier neighborhood, one constructed in 1910 and the other in 1873. Tom and wife Kathleen completely restored and own a 1940 authentic log cabin in the mountains west of Boulder.
After forty years practicing architecture and planning, in 2009 Tom decided to focus full time on historic preservation consulting
and redevelopment of historic buildings. This allowed him to merge his interests in both architecture and history. He created the
consulting firm Townscapes LLC and, with his business partner Paul Eklund, created the redevelopment company Older Boulder LLC. With partners, Tom and Paul purchased the 1876 retail-office building at 1212 Pearl. The following year Patagonia and Raymond James moved into the building as its key tenants. Tom also developed a relationship with Colorado Preservation Inc. and provided consulting services for several Denver buildings, including the Colorado Governor’s Mansion. From 2010-2015, he consulted and volunteered with Historic Boulder to save and rehabilitate the challenging Hannah Barker House. Tom says that working with the project’s leader, Ruth McHeyser, and the outstanding Hannah Barker House Committee, made this project a success.
Since 2010, Tom has also been involved with the Colorado Chautauqua Association as a Board member, chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, and active member of other committees working to preserve and enhance this National Historic Landmark District. His recent committee focus has been addressing the impacts of climate change, developing wildfire mitigation strategies, and exploring a potential solar energy project to convert the campus into a 100% renewable energy Landmark District. Tom continues his involvement with Historic Boulder on the Boulder Theater Façade Rehabilitation Project, as well as being a member of HB’s Finance Committee.