Drawn to History

Greenville residential designer N. Jackson Thacker has become the keeper of historic architect Willie Ward’s drawings

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When noted Greenville residential designer N. Jackson Thacker decided to open his own practice in 1985, he started by reaching out to a couple of colleagues—first to inquire about purchasing a firm. Bob Farmer, at one time an apprentice to historic Greenville architect Willie Ward, told Thacker he did not want to sell his firm, so the two agreed to work together in the same office, instead, helping each other out on projects, as needed.

Within about six months, Farmer did decide to come work for Thacker. And he did so for the next seven years until he retired. It was during the span of that partnership that Thacker discovered his business partner had inherited all of the famed Greenville architect Willie Ward’s architectural drawings, as well as some of his office furniture, including a drafting table, chairs, and more.

But the true gems are the drawings: some are blueprints; others are original sketches. All are a vital part of Greenville’s early history, as it grew and developed around this thriving community.

Farmer eventually retired, moved to Columbia, and passed away. But in his will, he left all of the Ward drawings and files to Thacker, who has been a stalwart steward of those relics. “It’s history. And too much of it has just been destroyed,” Thacker offers from his E. Washington Street office. “People don’t hand draw plans any more. They are computer drawn.”

Today, Thacker, whose name is on exponentially more Greenville-area building plans than Ward ever penned, keeps the tradition alive. Even though everything his design firm, Traditional Concepts, creates for construction documents is from CAD drawings, Thacker himself is wed to the craft of hand-sketched plans.

Says Thacker: “I still draw by hand, because I love it.”


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