Thomas Whelan Benton (1930-2007)

  • Benton screen printing
    Photo Source:
  • Benton Studio
    Photo Source:
  • Benton Studio, 1977
    Photo Courtesy: Aspen Historical Society, Aspen Times Collection


USC ‘60

Almost twenty years after Bayer and Benedict, Tom Benton arrived in Aspen in 1963, as the ski town’s growth and popularity were shifting into high gear.  Serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Benton used the GI Bill to study architecture at the University of Southern California and worked in southern California for a time. Though trained as an architect, he really wanted to be a “working artist.” A ski trip to Aspen convinced him that it was where he should be. Bringing a California sensibility that fit well with Aspen’s growing image as a counter-culture mecca, Benton designed his studio and gallery—“unique, a clean and sharp blend of wood and cinder block”- at 521 E. Hyman Avenue.  He collaborated with Hunter Thompson and others to create “images that helped to define Aspen’s tempestuous political and social upheavals” in the late 1960s. More interested in graphic art than in architecture, he still designed the occasional building, including a residence for actress Jill St. John. His funky, organic, California esthetic was in sync with Aspen’s Wrightian tradition.  His designs, such as the Patio Building (1969), a flat-roofed commercial building at 630 E. Hyman, exhibit a similar interest in natural materials, simple geometric shapes, deep overhangs, horizontal emphasis, and orienting the building to frame views toward the mountains.