Harold J. Nesland

Nesland, Harold J.

(1922 – 1999)

Born November 24, 1922, Harold J. Nesland grew up in Seattle and graduated from Ballard High School in 1941. The next year he joined the Navy and served on a minesweeper in the Pacific. After the war, he returned to Seattle and like many others, he took advantage of the GI Bill, which offered greatly reduced college tuition costs. Nesland enrolled at the University of Washington and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1955. A talented designer and older student, Nesland had actually formed a limited partnership in 1952 with architect and UW instructor Omer Mithun before his graduation.

Together the firm Mithun & Nesland swept dramatically onto the architectural scene in the Seattle area. By the mid-1950s, they had established a solid relationship with a variety of Seattle and Bellevue home builders and developers. The key to their success was to infuse production homes with character by paying more attention to detailing and scale than was customary at the time. Among their more notable projects was the Surrey Downs neighborhood in Bellevue (1954-1956). They also received national attention with designs featured in Better Homes & Garden’s Five Star Home Plan Book (Plan no. 2809-A & 3009-B). Today, models of the homes can be found in various communities across the United States. Locally, the firm was awarded the Seattle Times/AIA Home of the Year in 1955 for the Standberg House. Other Mithun & Nesland projects include the Lurie House (1952) in Bellevue; the Washington State Bank in Bellevue (1954); and the Medical Arts Center in Bellevue (1955), both Seattle AIA Honor Award winners.

In 1955, Nesland and Mithun parted ways. Upon their departure, Nesland proved that he was equally as talented as Mithun by providing an award-winning design for businessman Gordon Cheney in 1958.  The house, featured in a variety of regional magazines including Pacific Architect & Builder, gave Nesland his second Seattle Times/ AIA Home of the Year. Another notable design was the Seattle First National Bank- Bellevue Branch (1957), also a Seattle Honor Award winner, and the church at Covenant Beach Bible Camp in Des Moines (1957).

In 1961, Nesland formed a short-lived partnership with Olympia architect Donn M. Sibold. Known projects by the firm of Sibold & Nesland include the Sermons From Science Building at the Century 21 Exposition (1961); a remodel for American Federal Savings & Loan (1963) in Tacoma; and the Neo-Expressionist style Capitol Savings & Loan (1963) in Olympia.

During the partnership, Nesland remained in Seattle, while Sibold had an office in Olympia, at least until 1963. By 1965 the partnership had dissolved. At first Nesland opened an independent practice. Projects during this time included the Pizza Haven restaurants scattered across western Washington (25 locations); a proposed condominium development in Othello (1973);the South Hill Mall in Puyallup (1974); and the Coffee Creek Condominiums in Spanaway (1972).

Nesland passed away on June 5, 1999 in Redmond, Washington at the age of 76. His son, Harold J. Nesland Jr. also became an architect.

– Michael C. Houser

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