John G. Thorpe, 71, architect and dedicated preservation advocate, died at home in Oak Park on Jan. 25. Born on Aug. 12, 1944, he founded his own architectural firm, John Garrett Thorpe & Associates, in Oak Park in 1984 and earned renown as a restoration architect through work on numerous Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere, including the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago, the Isabel Roberts House in River Forest and the Arthur Heurtley House, William Martin House and Unity Temple in Oak Park.
He was instrumental in the preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, serving as author, with Don Kalec, of the master plan for the property’s restoration to its 1909 condition, published as The Plan for Restoration and Adaptive Use of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in 1978. He also acted to secure its purchase by the Wright Home & Studio Foundation (now the Wright Trust), which he helped found and implement its 13-year restoration process.
As a longtime board member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, he acted tirelessly to preserve existing Wright structures, formulate plans for their continued use, and provide technical preservation advice to prospective purchasers, homeowners and Wright house museum curators.
Mr. Thorpe was also an architectural consultant for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park and served on the board of the Pleasant Home Foundation, providing strategic and practical planning related to the restoration and preservation of the George W. Maher-designed National Historic Landmark house in Oak Park. He was the first docent at the H.H. Richardson-designed Glessner House in Chicago when it opened for tours in 1971.
He received many awards, including the national and Chicago chapter AIA Honor Awards for his restoration work on the Wright Home & Studio. He received his master of architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and his bachelor of architecture from the University of Illinois. He previously worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in their Chicago, Washington D.C., and Algiers offices before starting his own practice.
John Thorpe is survived by his twin brother, Tom Thorpe and his wife Kathleen of Boulder, Colorado; his nieces Julie Kerk, Laura Jones and Vicki Cox; his nephew Chandler Thorpe; and many cousins.
A celebration of John’s life and legacy was held during a memorial open house on Jan. 30 from at Pleasant Home in Oak Park, one of the many historic houses that John worked tirelessly to preserve, co-hosted by the family, Pleasant Home Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that contributions be made to the historic preservation organization of your choice in honor of John.