One of the most distinguished Baltimore architects in the early years of the 20th century was Douglas H. Thomas Jr.
Born in March 1872, the son of a prominent Baltimore banker, he attended local schools until sixteen, then went abroad for a year of study at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Upon his return, he entered the Johns Hopkins University and graduated in 1893. The next two years he studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), followed by study in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and finally travel in Italy and Greece.
Upon his return to America he became, in 1899, the representative of Windlow and Wetherall of Boston, for whom he had worked briefly prior to his study and travels in Europe. This association was to be short-lived, however, for in 1900 he formed a partnership with J. Harleston Parker of Boston, maintaining offices in Boston and Baltimore. Thus began an active, varied and distinguished practice in both areas including the design of banks, hotels, educational facilities, office buildings, large residences and a group of exposition buildings.
In 1907, Arthur Wallace Rice became a partner, and the firm name was changed from Parker and Thomas to Parker, Thomas and Rice. The work of the firm was traditional in style, deriving its forms from the renaissance of France and England as well as from classic Italian and Greek, was well planned, sensitive to human scale and always in good taste.
Undoubtedly, Thomas was most closely associated with the projects in the Baltimore area. It is understood that the first one here was the building for the banking firm of Alex. Brown & Sons in 1901 which survived the great fire several years later. It was followed by such important structures as the Hotel Belvedere, the Baltimore & Ohio office building, the Maryland Casualty Company, the Savings Bank of Baltimore and the Metropolitan Savings Bank, the picturesque offices of the North German Lloyd Steamship offices, the Gilman School, buildings for the Jamestown, Virginia exposition, and probably most significant, the campus plan and Academic Building for the Johns Hopkins University. As an active and devoted alumnus of that university, he gave unstintingly of his time and talent to the realization of the plan and the design of the first major building, Gilman Hall.
Douglas Thomas met an untimely and tragic death on June 11, 1915. Driving from the city to his country home in the evening, his car overturned on a slippery hill and he was crushed beneath it. His death was a great loss to the profession and a great shock to his hosts of friends and admirers. His university classmates determined that there must be a permanent memorial to him at Johns Hopkins and there is now a bronze bas-relief of him in Gilman Hall.
Douglas Thomas became a member of the AIA, was elevated to Fellowship in 1909, and was active in institute affairs. At the time of his death, he was President of the Baltimore Chapter and a member of the House Committee of the Institute.