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Posted: January 01, 2013

Colorado Business Hall of Fame laureate: Temple Hoyne Buell

Prolific architect’s impact on Denver still evident in his landmark structures

Lisa Ryckman

Visionary architect Temple Hoyne Buell changed the way the world shopped.

His design for the Cherry Creek Shopping Mall – a collection of connected stores surrounded by parking – built in 1951 on his own land, the 50-acre former city dump – earned him renown as the "Father of the Shopping Mall."

"It took him decades, but Sandy Buell took the town dump and created the premier shopping area in the Rocky Mountain region," says Daniel Ritchie, a friend of Buell’s for more than 30 years and current president of the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation Board of Trustees. "He had a vision, and he never gave up."

Debonair, fun-loving and somewhat eccentric, Buell was known for his cape, top hat and handlebar mustache – the source of his nickname, "Sandy," because it grew in so much lighter than the hair on his head. His personal elegance was reflected in the beauty of his buildings, more than 300 of them over the years, including the landmark Paramount Theatre, and the Lincoln Park Homes, Denver’s first affordable housing.

Born in 1895 to a prominent Chicago family, Buell’s relatives included great-great grandfather John Temple, a founder of the city; and Thomas Hoyne, Chicago’s reform mayor during the Civil War.

Buell earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1917 and later donated $5 million to his alma mater – at the time the largest-ever gift from an alumnus. It was used to create the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.

Buell served as an artillery lieutenant in France during World War I, where he was exposed to phosgene gas. Ill from that exposure and a subsequent diagnosis of tuberculosis, Buell moved to Denver in 1922 in search of a healing climate.

After his recovery, Buell founded
T.H. Buell & Co., which became one of the region’s largest and most prolific architectural firms during its 60 years in business. Buell also headed other corporations, including the Denver Motor Hotel Inc.; Buell Building Inc.; Civic Building Inc.; Fraternal Building Inc.; Nassau Building Inc.; and Buell Development Corp.

Buell’s vision had a profound and lasting impact on countless Coloradans. He was a champion for housing for the needy during the Great Depression and believed that projects such as Lincoln Park would create jobs and homes.

His interest in the emerging field of city planning led to the nation’s first laws to allow zoning in unincorporated areas. He served as chairman of the Cherry Hills Planning Commission, the Arapahoe Planning Commission, the Upper Platte Planning Commission and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

Buell’s contributions to the community also included capital projects such as the Temple Hoyne Buell Heart Center at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; the Temple Hoyne Buell Hall at his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Illinois; and the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre in Denver.

In 1962, Buell established the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation with a focus on the education of architects, research into catastrophic illnesses and programs to prepare young people to live healthy lives. But with characteristic vision, Buell gave the foundation board the authority to make its own determination about how best to spend his money in the future.

Five years after Buell’s death in 1990 at the age of 94, the board of trustees shifted the foundation’s focus to programs for young children, especially early childhood development and education.

"Mr. Buell trusted that the board of trustees would best know how to meet the needs of the time," Foundation Executive Director Susan Steele says. "And we are given the latitude to tailor our approach to philanthropy for just that purpose."

Since 1962, the foundation has grown its endowment to $250 million and now gives $9 million in grants annually to nonprofit organizations in Colorado. To date, the foundation has granted about $100 million.

"In his business and in all aspects of his life, Mr. Buell pushed the envelope," Steele says. "Today at the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation, we continue that tradition. We push our partners to do more, to be more effective, to create real change."

Lisa Ryckman is the Associate Editor/Online at ColoradoBiz. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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