Shenehon Center for Real Estate
2010 Inductee: Sam Thorpe, Sr. (1864-1936)
Published November 10, 2010
Sam Thorpe Sr. was born in Red Wing, Minn., in 1864. He started his first job in 1879 at the age of fifteen years old, working for a farmer. Later, he worked as a messenger at Security Bank, the predecessor of U.S. Bank. In 1885, Mr. Thorpe and his brother started their own company, Thorpe Brothers, Inc., which would grow into the largest real estate firm in Minneapolis.
Mr. Thorpe was a leader of his city’s real estate development for more than 50 years, dealing with homes, farms and mortgages, and marketed more than 70 subdivisions in the Twin Cities and in other cities and states, including the famous Edina Country Club area. Mr. Thorpe was often quoted saying that developing the country club district was the valedictory of his career. The area, formerly part of a 300-acre farm, was originally divided into 585 home sites. Before the first lot sold, Thorpe invested more than a half-million dollars in what would become one of the nation's finest residential communities. He carefully designed every aspect of the neighborhood to include heavily tree-lined streets and parks, as well as uniform building and design restrictions. The Thorpe Country Club, developed in 1923, changed its name to the Edina Country Club in the 1950s.
Some of the largest real estate transactions ever accomplished by a single person in that era were consummated by Mr. Thorpe. These undertakings, both in Minneapolis and other parts of the nation, gained him an outstanding national reputation. It was during his presidency of the National Association of Realtors in 1911 that the first permanent headquarters was established and located in Mr. Thorpe’s Minneapolis office. He was the second president of the National Association of Realtors. Thorpe Brothers was always at the forefront of the Minneapolis, Minn., and National Associations’ activities, fulfilling the ideas of integrity throughout the real estate industry.
Mr. Thorpe was instrumental in securing the deepening of the Mississippi River channel, which made steamship traffic to Minneapolis possible. He served as president of the Upper Mississippi Barge Line Company and later became president of the federal government’s Inland Waterways Advisory Board.
Mr. Thorpe was considered to be a man of integrity. Through all of his business experiences, he was highly regarded as a gentleman and a scholar. He was a highly valued citizen and was always ready to help with his time, money and personal services for philanthropic and humanitarian enterprises. Mr. Thorpe’s leadership in the real estate field and example of honest dealings has carried through four generations.