Thomas J. H. Peirce

Peirce

Thomas J. H. Peirce (1888-1956), a Providence native, is one of the most accomplished and least known Rhode Islanders from the first half of the 20th century. After attending Providence public schools, he graduated from the RI School of Design (RISD) in 1907 and became an accomplished designer, architect and engineer.

In 1916 Peirce was one of the first two military aviators in the state (and the first Naval Aviator). Had his RI Naval Militia flying time counted, he would have been among the first 25 men ever to fly for the Navy. He commanded the Aeronautical Section of the RI Naval Militia from the time it acquired its first airplane in early July, 1916. He served as a flight instructor at Pensacola and Hampton Roads, VA and commanded the first Naval Air Station at Squantum MA. Later he was sent to the Panama Canal Zone, where he served as XO until the armistice was signed.  In 1924 he joined the Army National Guard, eventually becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in the 118th Engineers.

In the 1920s and 1930s he resumed his architecture and design business, and was very active in promoting aviation and airport development. A lifelong proponent of aviation, he was secretary of the committee in 1929 that chose Hillsgrove as the site for the Providence Airport. By 1935 he was a member of the State Planning Board, and for several years served as Chief of the State Division of Forests, Parks and Parkways.

In 1939 he moved to Siesta Key, just outside of Sarasota, Florida; but by the time he left Rhode Island, he had left behind an architectural and engineering legacy. He designed many public buildings still in use in the Providence area, and is the holder of at least three patents.

 

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