Museum complex and art center, once the home of American expat Jim Thompson. He collected regional art and designed his distinctive dwelling beside a Bangkok canal, set in a lush natural-style tropical jungle garden. The house consists of a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses, teak structures brought to the present location from various parts of Thailand. Construction was completed in 1959.
Born in Delaware, educated at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, Thompson led an active social life in the 1930s, sat on the board of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and was a New York City architect until 1940. He served in WWII and was recruited to the OSS (precursor to the CIA), becoming station chief for Bangkok after the war. Deciding to settle in Thailand, he helped revive the Thai silk trade, by encouraging a cottage industry of handmade fabrics in vibrant colors, and selling them to his New York fashion contacts. In doing so, he raised many Thai families out of poverty. He was also one among the group who rescued and transformed the Oriental Hotel, visited by famous guests, from writers and entertainers to heads of state --now considered one of the world's finest luxury hotels.
Most of Jim Thompson's art collection was found on his Sunday afternoon strolls in the alleyways of Nakorn Kasem, and on trips to Ayutthaya, at a time when such objects were virtually unknown in the West, and not highly valued by most Thais. Hoping to preserve some of the country's treasures he amassed an extensive art and antique collection, predominantly of Asian origin, of sculptures, paintings, and porcelain. Somerset Maugham, a dinner guest at the house, wrote: "You have not only beautiful things, but what is rare you have arranged them with faultless taste." Gregarious and single (his one marriage attempt ended after nine months), he and his pet cockatoo often entertained, and his house became a must-stop for visiting artists, writers and interesting people of all kinds, friends old and new.
In 1967 Jim Thompson took a vacation with friends in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. Setting out for a walk in the surrounding jungle he never returned. No evidence of his death was ever found, dispite the efforts of hundreds who searched, (many of them expert trackers), and large rewards offered. A foundation set up to administer his estate after his disappearance now opens the house to visitors, where evenings can include terrace performances of Thai classical dance. It also manages the museum and art center exhibits, and schedules readings and events. A restaurant and bar at the house bears his name, -- tribute to 'Bangkok's leading farang host.' The restaurant is operated by the Thai Silk Company he helped found, along with their other restaurants and retail stores around Bangkok and beyond.