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July 11, 2018
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Member News

In Memoriam: Thomas Todd, FAIA

By Chris Todd

Thomas Abbott Todd, FAIA, devoted and loving husband, father and friend of many, passed away June 14, 2018 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.   Tom was a resident of Newfield House in Plymouth MA at the time of his passing and was previously a longtime resident of Duxbury MA, Jamestown RI, and Philadelphia PA.  Tom was preceded in death by the love of his life – Carol Roberts Todd in 2014, and his brother John P.A. Todd, also an architect of note.  He is survived by his sister Stephanie Coggeshall of Atlanta GA, and his children, Jonathan Christopher Todd of Houston TX, Suzannah Elizabeth Arnold Todd Waters of Norwell MA, and Cassandra Roberts Todd of Oakland CA; and grandchildren Samuel Sawyer Todd of Houston, James Arnold Waters of Fort Lauderdale FL, and William Waters and Cassandra Waters of Norwell. 

At an early age, Tom’s family relocated to the Philadelphia PA area, where he grew up and received his education.  Tom graduated from Germantown Friends School in 1946 and obtained his Bachelor of Art History degree from Haverford College in 1950.  Tom subsequently pursued a degree in architecture, graduating with honors from the University of Pennsylvania as a Master of City Planning in 1959 and was awarded a Theophilus Parsons Chandler Architecture Fellowship that took him to Europe. 

Prior to earning has Master’s degree, Tom was employed at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and upon his return to Philadelphia from his travelling fellowship, he worked for the University of Pennsylvania Planning Office as a Planner and Designer.  Tom then co-founded Grant & Todd, a planning consultant firm.  Project Architect positions at other area firms followed and in 1963, he was asked to join Wallace-McHarg Associates where Tom soon became a full partner and the firm was renamed Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd (WMRT), and ultimately, Wallace, Roberts and Todd (WRT), which continues.  To this day, the underlying beliefs and integrated practice that Tom helped shape at WRT hold great value for the talented professionals and aspirational clients drawn to the firm and the positive impact of their collective work is more relevant than ever. 

Tom was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980.  In 1991, Tom retired to Rhode Island where he consulted professionally for many years.  Tom was recognized as an architect of the first rank, both locally, nationally, and internationally, with strengths in design, landscape architecture, and city planning.  His many notable achievements include the master plan for the Abuja, the Federal Capitol of Nigeria, and the plan for the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.  Landscape architecture projects for Battery Park in Manhattan and the U.S. Capitol Master Plan for Washington, D.C. are other highlights.  Tom was also adept a designing modern new individual family houses, of which he built three for himself; in Philadelphia PA and Jamestown RI.  Tom has also been named one of the Pioneers of American Landscape Design.

Beyond his professional achievements, Tom had many pursuits including art, history, literature and music.  He was a prolific and accomplished painter with hundreds of canvases, water colors and sketches.  Tom showed his work in both public and private galleries, and it adorns the walls of many friends, family and colleagues.  One of his canvases, depicting Boat House Row, hangs prominently in the University Barge Club, of which he was a member.  Tom investigated the family’s seafaring background and he acquired the plans for a clipper ship (Witch of the Wave) captained by John Emory Abbott Todd.  From these he built a 1:48 scale model from scratch – even hand ‘aging’ the individual copper plates of the bottom.  This was the first of several museum quality ship models Tom produced.  One of which, the frigate USS Constellation, is on display at the US Naval War College in Newport RI.  Tom’s love of art and history was matched by his passion for music.  Exposed as a young man to J.S. Bach and Baroque music, Tom taught himself to play it, amassing a large collection of sheet music and scores.  He was inspired to build himself a harpsichord and learned to play that too, ultimately purchasing several artisan-built, multi-keyboard versions of the instrument.  He was also a reliable member of various local choral groups all his adult life.

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