CAHPT Founding Board Director and Interior Designer, dies at 85.
With a heavy heart we announce that Bill Thompson passed away quietly on November 24, 2013 at Duke Medical Center in Durham, NC following an extended illness.
In his 48 years with Dick Jenrette, Bill was involved in the restoration, decoration and landscaping of several important, early 19th-century homes. These included Edgewater, built in 1824 on the Hudson River in northern Dutchess County; Roper House, built in 1838 in Charleston, SC; Millford Plantation, built in 1840 near Columbia, SC; Ayr Mount, built in 1815 in Hillsborough, NC and Cane Garden, built in 1786 in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. In New York City he lived in, and took an active role in restoring, several noteworthy residences including the George F. Baker Houses at 67-69 East 93rd Street, One Sutton Place North and 37 Charlton Street.
Bill was instrumental in helping assemble one of the largest collections of Duncan Phyfe furniture, as well the collections of other early 19th-century cabinetmakers. He also played an integral role in identifying and collecting portraits, carpets, curtains, and chandeliers for these houses. He had a keen interest in gardening and landscaping for all of these properties. No small detail escaped him. Bill was a founding Director of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, which either owns or will own most of these properties to open them to the public as house museums.
William Lea Thompson was born in Curwensville, PA on August 26, 1928 to Roxie Ann Hess and Francis Ignatius Thompson. Having been raised in a Quaker household, Bill adopted this quiet religion in his early 20s. He graduated from Clearfield High School in 1946 and attended the Culinary Institute of America. He traveled extensively in his adult life.
He was predeceased by his three siblings, Darl Francis, Robert Walter and Lois May T. Peters. He is survived by several nieces and nephews and his beloved “Swans”: Amelia, Ann, Anne, BB, Betty, Carol, Cheryl, Connie, Emma, Georgina, Kathy, Lee, Lena, Margize, Maria, Marian, Mona, Pat, Sallie, Schatzie, Shirley, Sunny, Suzanne and Toni.
Bill is the author of two books, Beginnings and Ghostly Poems, and was a voracious reader, having collected more than 60,000 books located in the various properties he shared with Dick Jenrette. He wanted each house to have a “property library”. His collection featured 20th-century English and American novels and works focused on architecture, gardening, and landscape design. Many of the books are signed by their authors, with signatures from Truman Capote and Gore Vidal, who sold Edgewater to Jenrette in 1969.
He bids farewell to his best friend of 48 years, Dick Jenrette, and his other old friends and new friends that have made his life a happy one. He will be missed greatly by his many friends and family and remembered as a lovely human with a wonderful wit and insightful outlook on life.
Bill did not request a memorial service, but a small gathering of close friends will be held at a later date in Charleston, SC and in the spring at Edgewater on the Hudson, where he will be buried. In lieu of flowers and other gifts, Bill would appreciate a contribution to Classical American Homes, which will continue to preserve his work. All Gifts in Memoriam can be directed towards Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, 69 East 93rd Street, New York, NY 10128.
“Climb that hill and look at a sunset of beauty.
Remember that this is the last touch of beauty God gives us before the darkness of night. Brighten the world with the sunshine of your soul. Keep a balance when the rains come, for we need the rain and the storms to make us grow…. After the storms there is again the sunshine, and at the end we must radiate a beautiful sunset before the darkness overcomes us…. what lies ahead is not the end but another beginning.”
From Beginnings (2001)
Click here to read our Profile on William L. Thompson, from our Winter 2013 Newsletter.