Thomas MacLaren’s design for the Colorado Springs residence of the Baldwin family, known as Claremont, was based on the Grand Trianon at Versailles, which MacLaren studied in person. Although it may be the design which he is most associated with, MacLaren was not particularly fond of the project, as it was simply a copy of another design. However, it remains one of the many works of Thomas MacLaren’s life that stand as an enduring link between Colorado Springs and Scotland, and the Scottish migrant community that settled in Colorado Springs.
Thomas MacLaren was born on February 19, 1863, he was raised on the family property in the Scottish Highlands. In 1880, still a teen, MacLaren followed his brother, James Majorbanks (also an architect), to London to begin his architectural training. From 1882 to 1891 MacLaren earned several prestigious professional awards and travelled extensively throughout Europe to study and sketch. In 1892 he was admitted to the exclusive Royal Institute of British Architects. Thomas MacLaren immigrated to the U.S. in 1893, settling in Colorado Springs for his health.
Upon his arrival in Colorado Springs, MacLaren found a place “being only 30 years a settled country” where “no native Coloradan” architectural tradition was to be found. This absence of a native architectural tradition allowed MacLaren to adapt and experiment with his designs, and to evolve and expand his thoughts on the built environment in a new land. The result was an eclectic mix of architectural styles fused to design buildings, churches, and homes in Colorado Springs that are as authentic and unique as any American city can boast.
A prolific designer, up to 80 of MacLaren’s designs still stand in Colorado – the majority in Colorado Springs. Of these, twelve are designated on the National Register of Historic Places and three are designated on the State Register of Historic Places.
In addition to his architectural work, MacLaren is also credited with numerous philanthropic achievements. Notably, leading the efforts of the Caledonian Society of Colorado Springs in raising funds for the construction of a residence to house injured Scottish veterans of WWI at Longniddry, Scotland. The “Colorado Springs Cottage,” in the first settlement of the Scottish Veterans Garden City Association, continues to house injured Scottish veterans to this day.
Thomas MacLaren died on December 4, 1928, from complications following surgery for stomach ulcers; he is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.
Generously Submitted by Barry Binder, Historian