James J. Chiarelli

Fellow | AIA

Chiarelli, James J.

(1908 – 1990)

Born in Spokane in 1908, James Joseph Chiarelli received his Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Washington in 1934. Upon graduation he worked for architect Andrew Willatsen (1935). For the next six years he moved to a variety of architectural firms including Naramore, Grainger & Thomas (1935-1937); R. Ellis (1938); H.E. Kirkemo in Missoula, Montana (1938); F. M. Stokes in Portland (1939); John Graham (1939); and finally Smith, Carroll & Johanson (1939). During the war, Chiarelli served as field architect for the Vancouver Housing Authority.

In 1944, Chiarelli formed a short-lived but successful partnership with Paul Hayden Kirk. Together, the firm of Chiarelli & Kirk produced a variety of modernist structures that epitomize the Pacific Northwest Regional style. Notable structures include Crown Hill Medical-Dental Clinic in Seattle (1947); the Dr. Schueler House (1947) in Port Angeles; a variety of buildings at Camp Nor’wester (1946-62) on Lopez Island; the Lakewood Community Church (1949); Samuel Crockett House (1950) on Mercer Island; the C & K Apartments (1949) and several homes in Bellevue’s Norwood Village (1951). Chiarelli’s own home in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle was competed in 1948 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Many of their designs feature in a variety of publications, including Sunset, Better Homes & Gardens, McCall’s Book of Modern Houses, Architectural Record, and Small Homes Guide. The partnership of Chiarelli and Kirk lasted for six years until 1950.

Working as a sole practitioner, Chiarelli continued to design many residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. Notable projects include the Pierce County Blood Bank (1951) in Tacoma; the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture (1962) at the University of Washington; Rosellini’s Four-10 Restaurant in Seattle (1957); the Seattle Opera House (1962) with Seattle architect Marcus Priteca; and a church in Paagan Santol La Union, Philippines (1977).

Chiarelli was a prominent member of the local art and architectural community. He served as president of the Washington State AIA from 1956-1958, president of the Architectural Alumni Association, and sat on Seattle’s original Municipal Art Commission. In 1959, he was elected to the AIA College of Fellows. Chiarelli retired in 1979 and passed away in Seattle on May 5, 1990.

– Michael C Houser

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