John S. Detlie

Detlie, John S.

(1908 – 2005)

Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on December 23, 1908, John Stewart Detlie attended primary school in the deep south. He received an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Alabama and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933. After graduation, he spent a short time working in the office of Albert Kahn, then for the firm of Zantzinger, Borie & Madacy in Philadelphia. Detlie then moved to Hollywood and spent seven years working for the movie industry. In 1940, he was nominated for an Oscar for his work as production designer on the film, Bittersweet Among his art-director credits were A Christmas Carol and “Captains Courageous. He also notably married the Hollywood star Veronica Lake during this period. They later divorced.

While serving in the Army, in 1942, he left Hollywood’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios to manage a camouflage project in Seattle. To confuse enemy bombers, the Boeing Company camouflaged nearly twenty-six acres of their Seattle B-17 plant. Detlie used his skills as a set designer to cover Boeing’s Plant 2 with three-dimensional wire, plywood and canvas structures that were made to look like a town, including trees, houses and schools, instead of a wartime airplane factory. After the war, in 1946, Detlie joined the architecture firm of Young & Richardson and became a full partner in 1952.

Under the name Young, Richardson, Carleton & Detlie, the firm produced a wide variety of projects. Among their more notable work is Gaffney’s Lake Wilderness Lodge, which received a National AIA Honor Award in 1952. Additional projects include Terry-Lander Hall (1953, 1957) and McCarty Hall (1963) at the University of Washington, the Seattle Parks Department Administration Building (1948), and the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital (1953).

Detlie left the firm in 1956 and formed a partnership with Rayond H. Peck. Projects under this partnership included American Optical Company (1957), house at 3879 51st Ave NE (1958), Tradewell Store – Sandpoint Branch (1958), Lakeview Lanai Apartments (1958), the Bellevue Christian Church (1959), the Mercer Vista Apartments (1959), the General Cable Corp. Office & Warehouse (1960), MacPherson’s Real Estate Office – Lakewood Branch (1959), and the Alpha Mu Chapter of Zeta Bata Tau Fraternity House (1960).

In 1964 Detlie left Seattle moved to Los Angeles.  While there he worked for noted architectural firm of Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall before retiring near Palm Springs. While in Seattle, Detlie was a pioneer in the Seattle arts movement and helped form the Allied Arts Club of Seattle, becoming their first president.

After Detlie left, the firm became The Richardson Associates, known today as TRA. Detlie passed away in Westlake Village, California on November 30, 2005.

– Michael C Houser

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