The Jim Thompson House is one of Bangkok’s most popular museums. It is named in honor of Thompson, a businessman from the United States who made his home in Thailand. Despite its name seeming to imply a single building, the House consists of a variety of structures which Thompson collected from around the country.
Thompson was originally an architect in the United States. He first came to Thailand while on military service just after World War Two. He became fascinated by the country and chose to remain even after he had left the army. Thompson was particularly interested in the declining Thai silk-weaving industry, which he spent a considerable amount of effort attempting to revive.
Thompson’s success in this venture gave him the resources to build his house, which he wanted to reflect traditional Thai practices. As such, he dismantled and transported six teak structures, mostly over 200 years old, and placed them together on his land. In general, he used techniques employed by traditional Thai builders, such as elevating the living space to guard against flooding.
In 1959 Thompson took up residence in the house. Before long, it attracted considerable public interest due to the extensive collection of artwork that Thompson had accumulated over the years. He therefore opened the house to the public as a museum. He donated the income he received to charities and cultural projects.
After only eight years of living in the house, in March of 1967, Thompson disappeared without trace. All that is known is that he was in Malaysia at the time, in the region of the Cameron Highlands. The house he had created, however, was kept open and remains so to this day. A foundation in Thompson’s name was established in 1976 under the approval of the government.