Seattle Skyline from the Space Needle to Smith Tower.  Photo by B. P. Niederer.

Seattle Skyline from the Space Needle to Smith Tower. Photo by B. P. Niederer.

A selection of photos from our 2014 Annual Meeting & Conference in Seattle is up and running on our Flickr page!  If you’ve got pictures you’d like to add, send them to info@sahmdr.org, and we’ll post them with all due credit given!  We had a great time in Seattle and a more detailed report will follow soon.  In the meantime, many thanks and kudos to the organizing committee, presenters, tour guides, venues, and weather gods!


Ready for Seattle?

It’s not too late to sign up for our 2014 Annual Meeting and Conference in Seattle this coming weekend.  You can still register at the door (cash or checks only please)!  For details on the schedule, click here or go to our website at www.sahmdr.org.

To whet your appetite for our Seattle Conference,  check out the Cultural Landscape Foundations features on Richard Haag.  The offerings there include an article, Reflections of Richard Haag, Teacher and Advocate, written by Thaisa Way who will be presenting a paper on the same subject at our Conference.  There is also a collection of videos of Richard Haag reflecting on his life and work as well as reflections by friends and collegaues.  As part of the conference, we’ll be visiting the Bloedel Reserve, with includes some of Richard Haag’s work.

If you’re still in the market for a Seattle guide book, we highly recommend the new edition of Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner.  Professor Ochsner will also be presenting a paper on the emergence of Northwest Regional Modernism during our Saturday paper sessions.

If you’re still in the Seattle area during the weekend following our Conference, you may want to check out the Docomomo WEWA tour of Little Finn Hill, a modern livable community in Kirkland with houses designed by Paul Hayden Kirk.

Photo by Helen Hald.

Photo by Helen Hald.

To put it in their words:

Tour five Paul Kirk-designed houses!
Hey Modernistas!

Docomomo WEWA invites you to join us for Docomomo US Tour Day 2014!

The Little Finn Hill neighborhood in Kirkland, Washington is home to a collection of modest, mid-century modern residences designed by revered Northwest architect Paul Hayden Kirk and built for developer Richard G. Robinson in 1954-1955. Docomomo WEWA invites you to explore this community of livable homes that was once prominently featured in Life and Sunset magazines in the 1950s. One of the houses on the tour was featured in Pacific NW Magazine in 2012.

Five houses on the same street (NE 113th Place in Kirkland) will be open to view. They are variations of the same plan but each house is different enough that you’ll see how the architect’s creative use of details and siting gave each home a different feel.  With this event, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Paul Hayden Kirk’s birthday in 2014. We thank the homeowners for graciously opening up their residences and helping us plan this event.

If you find yourself in other cities on Tour Day, we encourage you to attend one of the other great tours. Learn more about Docomomo US Tour Day 2014.

Little Finn Hill Tour Details:
TICKETS: Please purchase tickets online through Brown Paper Tickets. The cost of tickets for the general public is $15 ($16.52 with service fee) each. For Docomomo US members, tickets are $10 ($11.34 with service fee) each. Tickets may also be available at the door the day of the event ($15 for all).
If you are not a Docomomo US member, we encourage you to join today. If you join, you may purchase tickets for this event and future Docomomo WEWA events at the discounted member price. Membership in Docomomo US means you also become a member of the Docomomo WEWA chapter.
WHEN: Saturday, October 11, 2014. The tour is an open house format from 1:00 to 4:00 pm but please arrive by 2:30 pm to check in so you have time see all five houses. The tour is self-guided. You’ll receive a tour booklet at check in.
WHERE: Please check in at the house at 10429 NE 113th Place, Kirkland, 98033. On-street parking available. Please do not park in or block driveways.
OTHER INFO: For each house you’ll be asked to either remove your shoes or wear shoe covers (provided). Exterior and interior photography permitted for personal use only. Please respect each property and do not open doors, cabinets, and drawers or go into any rooms that are not open to view. Backpacks and strollers are not permitted inside the homes. Small children must be with an adult at all times. Bathrooms in the homes will not be available for use.

This event is supported in part by a 4Culture Preservation Sustained Support grant. Thank you 4Culture!

I hope to see you all this weekend!








Fort Point, built before the Civil War, at the Golden Gate.  Photo: National Park Service.

Fort Point, built before the Civil War, at the Golden Gate. Photo: National Park Service.

Our sister chapter, the Northern California Chapter of the SAH (NCCSAH), will be featuring historic seacoast fortifications as the focus of their fall tour.  From their August Newsletter:  Saturday, September 27, NCCSAH will be doing an all-day tour of the fortifications in the Presidio and the Marin Headlands that once protected San Francisco Bay. Golden Gate National Parks historian Steve Haller will lead the tour.  The cost for non-members is $70 and includes a one-year membership.  For a copy of the NCCSAH August Newsletter which includes a tour registration form, click here.

Spaceneedle at night.  Photo by Dave Pinyerd.

Space Needle at night. Photo by Dave Pinyerd.

In San Francisco in 1954, Elliot A. P. Evans called the organizing meeting of the Pacific Section of the Society of Architectural Historians to order.  Over the years the group would sort itself into three different branches, including Southern and Northern California Chapters as well as the Marion Dean Ross (Pacific Northwest) Chapter. Therefore, 2014 marks our 60th Anniversary and close to our 60th annual conference (there appears to have been a few rare “lapses in chapter activity” according to Elisabeth Walton Potter’s history, Scholars and Sightseers).  To celebrate this milestone, the SAH MDR Board and Conference Committee have organized a meeting in Seattle, Washington with three days of eclectic activity and scholarship.  Slated for October 3-5, the overall theme of the event is Museums: Building Collections, Building Community.

We based our theme on the recent explosion of museums devoted to history operating in historic buildings in Seattle and will therefore offer behind the scenes tours of the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), the Wing Luke Museum, the Klondike Gold Rush Museum and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.  Our paper sessions have been expanded from our usual six presentations to nine, due to the excellent quality of submissions.  There will be an opening presentation by Michael Sullivan of Artifacts Consulting on Puget Sound’s Maritime Heritage delivered on board the 1922 Virginia V (docked, for those of you prone to sea sickness) and a keynote by Anthony Belluschi on preserving and sharing the legacy of his father, architect Pietro Belluschi.  Those of you yearning for some landscape after all of Seattle’s hardscapes will enjoy an outing to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

We look forward to seeing you all in October!

The full program including a registration form is available here or at our website www.sahmdr.org.  Online registration with a credit card is available through Eventbrite.


A finding aid for the historic student drawings collection in the University of Oregon Architecture & Allied Arts Library is now available and accessible through the Northwest Digital Archives, http://nwda.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv39794.

The guide was created by Helene Hannon, a library science graduate student at Emporia State University, who worked under the guidance of Ed Teague, Head of the A&AA Library, and Stephanie Kays, UO Libraries Special Collections & University Archives, from Oct. 2013 through June 2014. The guide describes approximately 1,600 drawings created by architecture students in the School of Architecture & Allied Arts during the years 1914-1970. The works were created using various media, including charcoal, watercolor, and blueprint, and range in size from 18” x 28” to 46” x 72”. A few were on display during the Drawn to Design exhibit in Knight Library, winter term 2014. The finding aid lists the works of hundreds of individuals, many of whom became well known in the design professions.

by Diana Painter (August 7, 2014)

I recently had the opportunity to present a paper at the Society of Architectural Historians Australia New Zealand’s (SAHANZ) 2014 conference, held in Auckland this year.

Auckland skyline.  Photo by Diana Painter.

Auckland skyline. Photo by Diana Painter.

This offered an excellent opportunity to share my love of Pacific Northwest modernism, meet fellow historians in another hemisphere, and of course see some of New Zealand and Australia.  My paper, entitled “Regional Modernism on the West Coast: A Tale of Four Cities,” focused on the shared tenets and similar design expressions in mid-century modern residential design on the west coast of the United States, as seen in the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC. (At least two attendees told me they realized I wasn’t talking about Australia when they did a mental assessment of major cities in western Australia and came up with one.)  One avenue I explored in the paper, in support of the thesis, was the personal and professional relationships among many of the practitioners on the west coast at the time, which accounts in part for the spread of new ideas.  Relationships between the west and east coast of the United States also helped support the spread of progressive ideas from the west.  For example, the architect William Wurster, one of the most highly regarded Regional modernists in the Bay Area at mid-century, married housing advocate Catherine Bauer in 1940.  Catherine’s sister assisted in curating the highly influential exhibit Built in USA 1932-1944, which was mounted at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1944.  She also edited the catalogue.  Not terribly surprising, west coast architects made a showing in this exhibit, and Wurster’s work was called out as particularly noteworthy.  One of the advantages of talking about Regional modernism in other places (I also presented a paper on Pietro Belluschi at this year’s VAF conference) is that people come up and tell you about similar trends at mid-century in their own region, and this was no different.

About 100 papers were presented at the conference.  The theme was “Translations,” which – appropriately – lent itself to many interpretations.  Within this framework topics ranged from the effects of the international spice trade of the 16th century on the built environment across the globe, to the design of new housing, post-Katrina, in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.  All the papers exhibited a high level of professionalism and collectively, a broad range of interests, both historical and contemporary.  Two of my favorite papers addressed the scientific iconography incorporated into biotechnology firms’ laboratory buildings (the author, Sandra Kaji-O’Grady won the prize for the best paper), and “facadism as urban taxidermy,” by Hannah Lewi and Andrew Murray.  The first paper focused in part on the number of buildings worldwide that incorporate double helixes in order to [superficially] portray the purpose of the building, among other visual metaphors from the sciences.  The latter paper used examples from Washington DC, Perth, and Melbourne to portray and analyze the range of feeble and/or distressingly misguided attempts to incorporate portions of historic buildings in new development schemes in the name of historic preservation and/or urban design.  (We are all familiar with these.  See for example George Kramer’s recent blog post on the Moore, Gerst & Barber Store, from July 19, 2014).  This paper drew from a thesis by Kerensa Sanford Wood from Columbia University on facadism in Washington DC, which is well worth looking at, particularly for the typology of facadism employed in her analysis (the thesis, “Architecture of Compromise: A History and Evaluation of Facadism in Washington, DC” can be found here).

Most of the presenters were academics from Australia or New Zealand and were from public universities, which prevail there, and quite a few papers were presented by PhD students.  The non-academics I met were mostly architects or architectural students with a practice or interest in historic preservation.  I ran into a few Americans, from the University of Michigan, Atlanta (author of the paper on post-Katrina houses, mentioned above), and Keith Eggener, our own Marion Dean Ross Chair of architectural history at the University of Oregon.  Keith, who attended our conference in Salem last year, presented a paper on a Christopher Wren church that was bombed by the Germans in World War II and was a ruin.  It was brought over from London and reconstructed in Fulton, Missouri, the site where Winston Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain” speech.  Today it houses the National Churchill Museum.

As part of the conference, I went on a walking tour of Auckland led by historic architect Tony Ward.  Because Tony had worked on many of the buildings we saw, the tour was particularly insightful.  Auckland reminds me a lot of Seattle, where I grew up.  The weather, for one, is very similar.  In was winter when I was there in early July, and the wind, rain and chilly damp was truly like December/January in Seattle.  The topography is similar, as is the extensive waterfront and view of nearby islands and peninsulas.  The contemporary architecture was also similar.  Like Seattle, Auckland is oriented toward redevelopment and even has their own version of the Space Needle!  They retain some excellent parks and key historic structures, often adapted to new uses.  The new addition to their art museum is particularly noteworthy.  It incorporates all previous additions on a challenging site and is simply very beautiful, particularly the wood columns, part of the new addition, that recall Maori carvings in a modern interpretation.  More about the prize-wining building can be found here: http://www.dezeen.com/2013/10/04/world-building-of-the-year-2013-winner-auckland-art-gallery/.

Auckland Art Gallery.  Photo by Diana Painter

Auckland Art Gallery. Photo by Diana Painter

A few aspects of the conference were particularly memorable, which we might take into consideration for our own conference planning in the future.  For one, the history of indigenous peoples was incorporated into the conference.  In just one example, a tour of Unitech’s (the university that hosted the conference) Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae was part of the conference opening.  A Marae is like the long house associated with the Pacific Northwest tribes, but in addition to exterior totems and carvings, the interior includes elaborately carved posts and colorful woven maps that tell tribal stories.  A special welcoming ceremony, performed by Maoris and members of the university who spoke the Maori language, was part of our visit (an interesting side note; signage in Auckland appears in English and Maori).  Secondly the food was excellent and wine and beer was freely poured!  This may not be everyone’s top priority, but it certainly does enhance the atmosphere and makes for livelier conversation!

Entrance to the Marae on the Unitec campus in Auckland.  Photo by Diana Painter.

Entrance to the Marae on the Unitec campus in Auckland. Photo by Diana Painter.

Here are a few terms that may be important to know for anyone attending an architectural history conference in New Zealand or Australia, for future reference.

  • How are you going? = How are you doing?
  • Flat white = coffee with steamed milk, identical to a latte, which you can also order
  • Tall black = Americano with a double shot of espresso, as far as I can tell
  • Nibbles = appetizers
  • Building consents = building permits
  • Earthquake strengthened = seismic retrofit
  • Breeze block – as in concrete screen walls
  • Hit and miss brick – when there are gaps between the bricks
  • Pivoting glass louvers – jalousie windows.

Oh yes, and definitely remember “no worries!”



The Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians is inviting applications for the 2014 Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Award.  Awards range from $500 to $2000 for research that furthers awareness and knowledge of architectural heritage in the Pacific Northwest.  The application deadline for the 2014 award is July 31, 2014.  For more information and an application, please visit the SAH MDR website at: http://www.sahmdr.org/awards.html.

Last year’s two award recipients were Professor Anne L. Marshall, PhD, of the University of Idaho; and Liz Carter, Preservation Consultant and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Oregon.

The Elisabeth Walton Potter Award was given to Anne Marshall to expand on her research into culturally appropriate architectures that meet the needs of contemporary Indigenous communities.  The project began as Professor Marshall’s dissertation, “Indigenous Architecture: Envisioning, Designing, and Building The Museum At Warm Springs,” and will culminate in the publication of a book.  Anne Marshall has presented her findings at numerous conferences and professional gatherings, including at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the SAH in Spokane.  She is also scheduled to be a speaker at our 2014 meeting in Seattle.

The Museum at Warm Springs Entrance.  Photo by Anne Marshall.

The Museum at Warm Springs Entrance. Photo by Anne Marshall.

The following text is an excerpt from Professor Marshall’s successful application for the 2013 Elisabeth Walton Potter Research Award:

The Museum at Warm Springs: Exterior of changing exhibits gallery, dance plaza, and administration wing.  Photo by Anne Marshall.

The Museum at Warm Springs: Exterior of changing exhibits gallery, dance plaza, and administration wing. Photo by Anne Marshall.

 “It is not clear how to design culturally appropriate architectures that meet the needs of contemporary Indigenous communities.  Although historical forms may have some cultural relevance, they do not necessarily represent who an Indigenous group is today and they are unlikely to accommodate contemporary building programs.  Because few Indigenous people practice architecture, many Indigenous clients hire design professionals from outside of their communities.  Fundamental differences in world views, ways of thinking, and modes of communication challenge both Indigenous clients and their architects.  How do Indigenous clients and their designers overcome these challenges?

Changing exhibits gallery, ceiling detail.  Photo by Anne Marshall.

Changing exhibits gallery, ceiling detail. Photo by Anne Marshall.

Research thus far suggests that collaboration—within the interdisciplinary design team and between Tribal members and designers—proved to be key to the success of this project.  A one-week on-site design workshop allowed time for Tribal members and designers to develop trust, communicate, and work collaboratively.  The workshop allowed time for designers to recognize the primacy of storytelling which became the conceptual foundation for the landscape design.  The natural world was the inspiration for the building design.  Architects sought to design a building that represented the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and they did this by using forms, materials, and colors from the landscape along with forms alluding to traditional buildings.”

Liz Carter was an Elisabeth Walton Potter award recipient for her project titled “Mid-nineteenth Century Dwellings of Oregon’s Black Pioneers: A Brief Historical Context.”  Liz was an intensive participant at the 2013 SAH MDR meeting in Salem, providing the contextual backbone for the opening night’s panel discussion on Pioneer Era Homesteads, and presenting a paper on the following day.  Her research on African-American pioneers is already reaching out to wider audiences.  At the 2014 Oregon Heritage Conference a collaboration between the Oregon Black Pioneers (OBP), a non-profit group, and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) was announced.  The goal of this project is to expand the data in the Oregon Historic Sites database to include more comprehensive information about the early African-American experience in Oregon though formal scholarship as well as crowd sourcing.  For more on the project, visit the OBP blog, find forms to contribute information at http://makeoregonhistory.org/, and to see the results to date, check the Oregon Historic Sites Database and search for “African-Americans in Oregon, 2014″ under “Group Name.”

Gorman House - 1-story section is circa 1857, 1.5 story section is circa 1866.  Photo by Liz Carter.

Gorman House – 1-story section is circa 1857, 1.5 story section is circa 1866. Photo by Liz Carter.

From the application:

” The African-American pioneer story in Oregon is not widely known, and scholarship on associated buildings and sites is minimal.  Few are aware that there are several identified sites, including a small handful of mid-nineteenth century houses still standing, with inextricable links to the important and under-recognized aspect of Oregon’s history.  While the general histories may have been explored to varying degrees, the study and research of buildings in terms of who built them, the social circumstances of their construction, potential provenance, and/or similarities in form or method of construction to dwellings in the east have not been clearly addressed.  Two examples are described below.

Interior of Gorman House with  original fireplace/chimney of hand-made bricks and mud mortar. Photo by Liz Carter

Interior of Gorman House with
original fireplace/chimney of hand-made bricks and mud mortar. Photo by Liz Carter

The circa 1856-1866 Hannah and Eliza Gorman House in Corvallis is perhaps the oldest residence remaining in Oregon with direct ties to people who were brought to the territory as slaves, but there are others throughout western Oregon.  The Gorman house story is unusual in that it appears to have been constructed by Hannah and Eliza Gorman, former slaves, in a time when property ownership by people of color was illegal in Oregon.  The oldest portion of the house displays some similarity to single-pen slave dwellings found east of the Mississippi.  The Cora Cox House outside of Brownsville, dated to circa 1864, was also constructed for and owned by a former slave woman.  The land on which the house was built was sold to Cora by her former owner for the sum of $10, and it is presumed that construction followed soon thereafter.  The designer and/or builder is not currently known.

Cora Cox House, Brownsville.  Photo from http://makeoregonhistory.org/

Cora Cox House, Brownsville. Photo from http://makeoregonhistory.org/

Both buildings have been the subjects of study by University of Oregon students in recent years.  At the Gorman House, student work focused largely on exploring the building and making preliminary determinations about historical archaeological potential on the site.  In addition, the property owner has done fairly extensive genealogical research (to the degree possible) on Hannah and Eliza Gorman.  The building itself was analyzed by Mary Gallagher and Philip Dole over ten years ago, and subsequent analyses have brought a better understanding of the building’s construction history in terms of chronology, but not in terms of potential “ethnic signatures” that may be inherent in the building’s design, materials or construction.  The Cora Cox House was the subject of National Register-level research and documentation, but a detailed analysis of its construction was not undertaken.  Neither building has been discussed or studied within a broader context of African-American, slave or former-slave architecture in Oregon.  In order to better understand these buildings and others with similar histories, a wider view of the historical and architectural context in which they were created is needed.”

The SAH MDR board and members congratulate the 2013 Elisabeth Walton Potter Award recipients and thanks all who applied for their excellent proposals.  We look forward to reviewing another batch of interesting research topics in 2014!




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