Harry L. Cummings Jr.

Cummings, Harry L. Jr.

(1924 – 2019)

Kirkland architect Harry Lee Cummings, Jr. was born on July 10, 1924 in Conway, Arkansas, but grew up in Iowa. His formal architectural education began in 1942 but it was quickly cut short due to WWII. After serving in the US Air Force (1943-1945) he returned to school in 1946 and graduated with a BA in Architecture from Iowa State College in 1949. Immediately thereafter he continued his education, receiving a Masters in Architecture and Urban Planning from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1950. Cummings holds the distinction of being one of the only architects in Washington State to hold a degree from this prestigious school. He was one of ten graduate students accepted at Cranbrook to study under the renowned Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who passed away in July 1950, just weeks after Harry graduated.

Upon graduation, his first job was working for Michigan architect Alden B. Dow (1950-1954). Longing to have his own firm he decided to move to Seattle and took a job as a draftsman/designer with Paul Thiry (1954-1955). Cumming had known the Pacific Northwest after spending two summer in Montana as a smoke jumper.

After gaining contacts and his Washington State architectural license (1955), Cummings established his own independent practice in Kirkland in 1956. However within a year, Eugene G. Martenson, a recent University of Washington graduate, joined him as a partner and the firm was renamed Cummings & Martenson. Together, the two made a significant impact on the built environment on the Eastside (of Lake Washington) over the next 10+ years (1957-1970).

Notable projects included the Les Connolly House (1958, AIA Home-of-the-Month) in Kirkland; the Rosehill Fire Station No. 3 in Kirkland (with Landscape architect Richard Haag) (1964); the Lakeshore Appliance Co. in Bellevue (1960); the James Fisk House (1966) in Bellevue; the Redmond State Bank; the Eastside YMCA & Teen center in Bellevue (1969); the Administration Building for King County Water District No. 81; several buildings for Kodiak Naval Air Station & Ault Field on Whidbey Island; and the King Co. Forward Thrust Swimming Pool in Enumclaw (1973).

The firm also designed several religious structures including Inglewood Presbyterian Church (1959) in Kirkland; the Kirkland Congregational Church (1963); the First Church of Christ Scientist in Kirkland; and an administration building & educational wing for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kirkland (1954, 1964).

The firm also gained notoriety by designing several medical and dental clinics in the Kirkland area including Lakeshore Medical Clinic in Kirkland (1965), which was one of six merit awards given by the American Association of Medical Clinics and the AIA for good clinic design; and the Anderson Medical Clinic in Bothell.

They also completed several notable projects for the Lake Washington School District #414 in Kirkland including Mark Twain Elementary School (1964); Benjamin Franklin Elementary School (1967); additions to Lockwood Elementary School; the district transportation terminal; and Carl Sandburg Elementary School (1969). Outside of the Kirkland area they designed Lincoln Elementary School in Hoquiam; and the Horace Mann Elementary School (1967) in Redmond.

During the mid- to-late 1970s, Cummings was a frequent lecturer at the University of Washington Department of Architecture. He was also very active in the Kirkland Rotary Club and served as President of the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce (1962-1963). Other volunteer work included serving as an elder in the Presbyterian Church; Scoutmaster and/or Committeeman for the Boy Scouts of America (1951-1965); and served as a member of the Washington Environmental Council and King County Environmental Development Commission.

After Martenson departed in 1970, the firm was renamed Cummings & Associates. The initial associated partners included William Ostheimer and Carl Easters. The firm grew in size and prestige to become the 22nd largest architectural firm in the Puget Sound region with some 27 employees.

Cummings served on the faculty of the College of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Washington in the 1960s, and taught a blueprint reading class for the adult education program in Kirkland in the 1970s. He passed away in Kirkland on January 29, 2019.

– Michael C Houser

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