Mirza Dickel, distinguished interior architect and leader of the regional chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians died in Portland on December 8, 2012 at the age of ninety. She was born Mirza Jane Baumhover on October 31, 1922 and was raised in Portland. She entered the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts, where she received a B.S. degree in architecture in 1947. She is survived by her husband, Wallace Kay Huntington, her son, Paul Dickel, architectural designer of Dallas, Texas, and her sister, Nancy Lee Andersen. Mirza’s career of more than fifty years as an interior architect was centered in Portland, where her distinctive interiors were noted for a refined modern feeling that complemented contemporary lifestyles. For her life-long standards of excellence, innovation, and commitment to her field, she was named a Master Interior Architect among first recipients of the “Root Awards” presented in varied design categories by Portland Spaces monthly magazine in 2008.
In the 1960s, while serving as presiding officer of the Portland chapter of the American Institute of Interior Designers, Mirza joined other consultants brought together by the Oregon Historical Society to restore the Bybee-Howell House on Sauvie Island in its historic farm setting outlying northwest Portland. The Classical Revival landmark was to be the first project in which she collaborated with landscape architect and architectural historian Wallace Kay Huntington.
After Wallace acquired the remarkable settlement-era farmhouse built by William Case in the vicinity of St. Paul, Oregon in 1977, Mirza worked alongside his architect, SAH chapter member Charles Gilman Davis, in the restoration that would earn Davis and Dickel a 1979 preservation award from the Oregon chapter, American Institute of Architects. Case Farm became the home of Wallace and Mirza upon their marriage, and it was there, in 1988, they hosted a memorable dinner and open house for members of the SAH Domestic Study Tour of the Willamette Valley organized by Earl D. Layman. Visits to Case Farm inspired chapter leaders Grant Hildebrand and Miriam Sutermeister to undertake their rigorous, illustrated documentation project published to the chapter’s credit in 2007 as A Greek Temple in French Prairie: The William Case House, French Prairie, Oregon 1858-‘59.
Through University of Oregon ties, Wallace and Mirza were close friends of Society of Architectural Historians late founding member Marion Dean Ross. They were encouraged by Professor Ross to take active roles in the Northern Pacific Coast chapter. Wallace served as chapter president in 1972-1974; Mirza followed suit in 1980-1982 at a time when California from the Bay Area north was still a part of the chapter’s jurisdiction. For two years, Mirza and secretary-treasurer Dorothy Gilmore arranged the semi-annual meeting schedule, which rotated meetings throughout the entire region, to include extra meetings in California to accommodate members in the Bay Area and hold the chapter together until the time for organizing a separate Northern California chapter was auspicious.
Mirza served on the board of directors of the Society of Architectural Historians at the national level in 1982-1984 and regularly represented the region at meetings in the Philadelphia headquarters. For their wise and enduring leadership as chapter officers and advisers, Mirza and Wallace were honored as joint recipients of a Marion Dean Ross Service Award during the annual conference of the Marion Dean Ross/Pacific Northwest Chapter of the SAH held in Portland in 2009.
Lisa Radon, “Mirza Dickel: Master Interior Architect,” Portland Spaces, Dec. 2008-Jan. 2009, 95-97.
Elisabeth Walton Potter, Scholars and Sightseers: The Society of Architectural Historians in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest 1954-2004.