Mithun, Omar L.
(1918 – 1983)
Born in 1918 in Marcus, Iowa, Omer Lloyd Mithun had a creative and prolific career spanning more than thirty years. Formal training included a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota in 1942, and a one-year degree in Naval architecture from the University of Michigan in 1945. His training brought him to the Pacific Northwest, where he took a job at the Naval Shipyards in Bremerton directing the construction and repair of a variety of vessels. After the war, he was employed for a short time with B.H. Branch in Bremerton before moving to the Seattle firm of Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson (1946-1947). In 1949, Mithun established an independent practice in Bellevue. Several partnerships followed including Wilson-Mithun (1949-1952), Mithun & Nesland (1952-1955), Mithun, Ridenour & Cochran (1956-1960), and The Mithun Associates (1980-1983).
By the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mithun had established a solid relationship with Seattle and Bellevue’s home builders and developers. The firm had learned to infuse production homes with character by paying more attention to detailing and scale than was customary at the time. Among the more notable projects was the Surrey Downs neighborhood in Bellevue (1952-56).
Other projects by Mithun’s firms include the Bellevue Presbyterian Church (1955), the Bellevue Medical and Dental Center (1962), Bellevue Fire Station One (1976), the Lurie House (1952), and the Tally Building and Everwood Park Office buildings (1976). Among the more outstanding work during this period was the nationally recognized Washington State Bank in Bellevue, which was awarded a National American Institute of Architects (AIA) merit award in 1958. Later work by the firm include The Meadows residential development in Redmond, a Seattle AIA Chapter merit award winner in 1976, the Sahalee Village Condominium Project in Sammamish (1972), and the Mithun-designed neighborhood of Kempton Downs in Bellevue.
Appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Washington School of Architecture in 1950, Mithun influenced generations of students as a well-regarded teacher. He retired from the University in 1982 as a full Professor.
Mithun’s business and teaching careers were balanced by his civic involvement, which concentrated in Bellevue. He served on and chaired the Bellevue Planning Commission for nearly 20 years (1953-72), and later served on the Medina Planning Commission.
In 1973, the AIA College of Fellows recognized the importance of Mithun’s work and inducted him into the College. Mithun died in Bellevue on March 22, 1983. After his death, the firm continued, at first changing its name to Mithun Bowman Emrich Group, and later to Mithun Partners. Today, the firm is known under the name, Mithun, in honor and respect for its founder.
– Michael C Houser