Research Tips for Finding Info on Seattle Architects

Architects Card Catalog, Seattle Public Library / Photo: Eugenia Woo

A lot of historical information about Seattle architects can be found online these days which makes research much easier. But there’s more info available only at the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library and at UW Special Collections. Some history detective work is needed but that’s part of the fun. Here are some tips for researching architects using local resources (not an exhaustive list, but a good start).

Seattle Public Library Architects Card Catalog and Scrapbooks:

These resources are located on the 10th floor Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room of the Central Branch Seattle Public Library. Many of Seattle’s architects from the twentieth century (particularly the mid-twentieth century) are represented in the catalog. You can find index cards of architects by alphabetical order that feature references about their work or biographical information. The Architects Scrapbooks contain news clippings about Seattle architects and their projects.  These scrapbooks (now contained in archival boxes), are locked up in a glass case in the Seattle Room near the Architects Card Catalog. Just ask the reference librarian on duty for assistance.

University of Washington Special Collections, Architects Files:

The UW Special Collections has research files on individual architects and firms–these are kept locked up in filing cabinets in the room where they have the old wood card catalog and city directories, so just ask one of the reference librarians on duty to unlock the cabinets if you know which architect(s) you’re researching. Some files have more info than others. The best ones sometimes include a firm’s projects profiles so there’s chock full of info on the firm’s history and projects.

Online Resources:

Architecture of the Pacific Northwest Database. This UW database contains references to architects tied to specific works and architectural drawings.

Docomomo WEWA Architects and Designers Biographies. This is an ongoing research project by Docomomo WEWA to provide biographical info on mid-twentieth century modern architects, landscape architects, and designers in Washington state.

Pacific Coast Architecture Database. This is a much broader look at architects and their work in Washington, Oregon, and California.

HistoryLink Architects Biographies. Another good source of biographies of architects in Washington state.  You can search by specific architect or type in “architects” in the search box and get a list of names.

Tacoma-Pierce County Buildings Index. This is a great online resource from the Tacoma Public Library. You can find information on specific buildings tied to architects. Just type in the architect’s name in the “Notes Keyword” search box and you’ll get a list of known projects, addresses, photos, and references to news articles.

North Carolina Architects & Builders, A Biographical Dictionary. This online biographical dictionary highlights architects and builders who have produced North Carolina’s architecture for more than 300 years. No, this is not very helpful for researching Seattle-based architects and builders, but this is an amazing online resource that is a model for other cities for developing a useful tool for providing information on architects and builders.