Roderick G. Parr

Parr, Roderick G.

(1925 – 1999)

Roderick Glenn Parr built a successful practice, one that graduated rapidly from single-family houses to commercial work. He began designing residences even before he graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Architecture in 1951. Like others of his generation, Parr devoted three years to military service during World War II, and began college later than usual. He moved to Puget Sound right after the war and began training at the UW in 1948. The same year, he married Glenna J. Johnson of Seattle and earned enough money to design a residence for his family in Bellevue. This first house was published in the Seattle Times on August 18, 1950, which at the time, was quite a coup for an undergraduate, and started him quickly in his career.

Aside from wartime service, Parr spent his entire life in Oregon and Washington. He was born in the central Oregon town of Woodburn on May 8, 1925, to a blue-collar family. His father, Glenn Parr, worked as a lumberman in Mansfield, OR, site of a large mill owned by the Coos Bay Lumber Company.

Over the course of his career, Parr designed several large single-family houses for clients throughout the Puget Sound area, but most were concentrated in Mercer Island, Bellevue and Seattle. These appealing Modern houses often employed post and beam frames, huge window expanses, clean, geometric forms and fireplaces used as room partitions. Parr seemed to had a knack for getting his residences and other projects published, and his projects appeared frequently in the Seattle Times during the 1950s.

During the Korean War Parr worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, but when this service was completed, he founded a firm with Michael J. Soldano (1926-2009).  The productive partnership lasted from 1954-1957. Notable projects included the H.G Witte House (Mercer Island, 1954), Lawrence R. Turnbull House (Mercer Island, 1956), a model house in a new tract by Drummond and Lane, Inc.-the Trails End Model House (Bellevue, 1959), and the Seiler Residence (Mercer Island, 1960). The partnership also branched out beyond residential commissions and later focused on clinics, apartment buildings and small commercial projects.  Known designs include the Royer-Megale Clinic (West Seattle, 1956), the McLaughlin-Bertoldi Clinic (Seattle, 1956), and the Mercer Island Lumber Company Building (Mercer Island, 1957).

For reasons unknown Parr dissolved his business with Soldano in 1957, and began a period of intense solo activity. Projects during this phase of his career include the Senescu Apartment Building (Bellevue, 1959), the Island Terrace Apartments (Mercer Island, 1959), the Islandia Shopping Center (Mercer Island, 1964), Bellevue Post Office (1967), and the Durell Products Co. Office Building and Manufacturing Plant (Seattle, 1964).

With the number and scale of some commissions increasing, he expanded his office in 1965, changing the name to Roderick Parr & Associates after hiring Jerry Ruhl, who would take a leading design role for a decade. By then Parr had obtained a number of large-scale commissions. The most notable was the 400 108th Avenue N.E. Office Building (later known as the First Mutual Center, 1967), a seven-story tower that at the time, was the tallest building in Bellevue. To help with construction details of the building, Parr formed a limited partnership with G.T. Sparrow & Associates, civil engineers; and Frankfurter & Associates, consulting engineers. The Frankfurter, Parr & Sparrow firm, leased space for a branch office in the 400 Building, and continued to work together for several additional years.  Other known projects include the General Electric Co. repair shop in Kent (1972), and the National Bank of Commerce – Rainier Valley Branch (1972).

Parr continued the practice until 1986.  Later projects include the Everett Pacific Hotel and Convention Center (1982), numerous Taco Time and McDonald’s restaurants, as well as condominium complexes and suburban office buildings. After Parr’s retirement, Ruhl took over the practice and it was renamed Parr-Ruhl & Associates.

Parr retired to La Conner, WA, and passed away there on April 3, 1999.

– Michael C Houser

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