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California preservationist

Tommy Enid Thompson Sales ’44

A picture of Enid Thompson Sales

Tommy Enid Thompson Sales ’44, September 17, 2008, in Carmel, California, from respiratory failure.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, where her grandfather served as the first non-Mormon mayor, Enid moved west with her mother to attend high school in Berkeley and Reed College. She received a BA in general literature from Reed and moved to San Francisco, where she lived for 32 years.

Enid, whose distillation of will was likened to the point of a chisel, led the cause for historic preservation in the Bay Area and Monterey Peninsula. She was an intellectual, an artist, and the first woman to receive a general contractor's license in the state of California in 1962.

In San Francisco, married to jazz critic Grover Sales ’50, she opened her home to musicians, and to poets, such as Philip Whalen ’51 and Lew Welch ’50. In 1945, she created Allied Potters with Barbara Wuest Thompson ’43, her college friend and (later) sister-in-law. Enid started a soundstage for a television business, where she learned carpentry and other techniques related to set building. Following divorce, she began renovating Victorian homes. For 10 years, she was employed with the rehabilitation department of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; she became chief of rehabilitation, overseeing a staff of 20 and the preservation of more than 350 homes. “I felt compelled to save San Francisco with my two hands,” she said.

Discouraged by preservation politics, she left San Francisco in 1976 for Healdsburg, and operated a 54-acre vineyard of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, while continuing to build and rehabilitate houses. In 1986, health issues, exacerbated by a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit and inflamed by crop spraying, necessitated another move, this time to Carmel. In her role as a preservationist, she battled with individuals such as Mayor Clint Eastwood (“that idiot”)—in one instance, for the Flanders Mansion, an “old heap” to Eastwood. She spent time with bohemian artists like Jean Varda and with writers such as Henry Miller and John Steinbeck—Sunday afternoons they gathered to talk and to listen to music at a laboratory on Cannery Row run by Ed Ricketts, biologist, ecologist, and philosopher.

Enid resigned from the Carmel Heritage Society to found the Carmel Preservation Foundation. In 1991, the Carmel Residents Association named her citizen of the year for her efforts at civic betterment and historic preservation. She served on the county's historical resources review board, and was a member of the California Preservation (Foundation) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“I work to save buildings because they can tell us so much about our cultural history, how we once lived, and what we admired or cared about,” she stated. In 2006, the California Preservation Foundation named her preservationist of the year and the Alliance of Monterey Area Preservationists gave her a lifetime achievement in preservation award. “I have been grateful to Reed all of my adult life for teaching me how to continue to learn,” she told the college in 2000.

“A bolt of lightning until the very end, she loved nothing more than Carmel and Reed College; they being the two highpoints of her life,” wrote friend and author Linda Leigh Paul ’87 MALS ’95. “The night before she passed, friends gathered in the hospital room with her and a little Jack Daniels. She was on oxygen, uncomfortable, but able to laugh and her final words are said to be: 'I was hoping to be around for the election. Those people are going to have to answer to someone!'”

Survivors include her daughter, two grandchildren, sister-in-law Barbara, and three nephews.

"Enid Sales, Preservationist" appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

"Preserving Carmel's Architectural Treasures" credits Enid for the city's rich legacy of historic properties. 

Appeared in Reed magazine: February 2009

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