Some of the most interesting scrapbooks to surface during the (still ongoing) scrapbook project document the work of notable Pacific Northwest architects and architectural firms. The George Wellington Stoddard scrapbooks initially were not high on my to-do list for receiving the “full cataloging” treatment since the brief record generated in the early stages of the project appeared to describe the set adequately. Recently, however, those volumes got bumped up in priority when a box of loose clippings was returned to me, after having been used in the reading room, for a better degree of arrangement and description.
It turns out that Stoddard enjoyed a lengthy and varied career (from the early 1920s to 1960) in the Seattle area, starting out as a specialist in residential design. Early on he appears to have developed a lucrative relationship with the Puget Mill Company and worked on several of their projects, including the exclusive Broadmoor development. Following World War II, Stoddard’s firm received several high profile commissions in both the private and public sectors, such as the National Bank of Commerce and the Green Lake Aqua Theatre. The single item amid the mass of disorganized clippings that really caught my eye, however, was a gloriously pristine program for the dedication ceremony of the then new King County Youth Service Center.
The pamphlet primarily piqued my curiosity because I used to work nearby (at one point “juvie” was one of the few places in the neighborhood within walking distance to buy a coffee) and also because I had just come across an article in the current issue of the Stranger on a youth poetry workshop held at the Juvenile Detention Center. The writer starts off by setting the scene, making the inevitable contrast between the “bland, sprawling building,” which he likens to a “postapocalyptic high school” and the uplifting, humanistic program he observed inside its walls. Not surprisingly, among the several comments sent in response to the online version of the article, no one wrote in to defend the architecture. Nor will I jump into the fray. It is not really a piece of architecture which inspires much affection, but, after having had the opportunity to examine the program and skim a few of the clippings from contemporary publications (especially the more unusual ones from construction trade journals), the building, which won high praise in its day, appears in a very different light.
Don’t believe me? Stop by some day and examine the collection for yourself. The four scrapbook volumes and one box which contains clippings and other materials (currently in a much more neatly organized condition — which we intend to maintain) are available now for your research pleasure.
2. Scan of front cover of 1952 program, George Wellington Stoddard scrapbooks, NA737.S656 S76 1931.