Pleas, Riley W.
(1926 – 2008)
Born in Covina, California on June 16, 1926, prominent Seattle area builder Riley William Pleas was raised in Olympia. After grammar school, he and his brother were selected for officer training in the U.S. Navy V-12 program. Following service in the Navy, Riley studied architecture at the University of Michigan. It was there that he met his future wife, Nancy. They married on September 14, 1946 in Ann Arbor and moved to Seattle the following year.
After his arrival in Seattle, Pleas continued his studies at the University of Washington while working for Strand Construction Company. It is unknown whether he received a formal degree from the University of Washington, but in 1948 Pleas took a job as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Mallis & Dehart (1948-1950). With more interest in the construction side of buildings, Pleas decided to open his own construction firm, Riley Pleas Inc., in Seattle in 1950. Over the course of the next forty years, his company built a variety of notable projects scattered across Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Alaska.
Projects ranged from schools to apartment complexes, and large infrastructure works. Known projects include Pinehurst Elementary School (1958); Mountlake Terrace Elementary School (1958); a remodel of Lowell School (1959); the Pacific Architect & Builder Office (1959); Northgate Clinic of Group Heath (1958); the Villa Capri Apartments (1960); and the Four Seasons Apartments (1966), all in Seattle. Outside of Seattle, his firm built the Wells Dam (1966) in Bridgeport, OR; and the F.W. Woolworth Store (1954), the J. C. Penney Building (1955), and the Renton Village Shopping Center (1963), all in Renton.
Over the course of his career he worked with a variety of architects including Albert O. Bumgardner, Paul H. Kirk, and the firms of Dudley & Ekness, and Cuykendall, Illes & Blean. In the late 1960s, Pleas expanded his business interest to serve as a developer as well as builder. Under HUD’s “Turnkey Program” he developed several high-rise projects for the King County and the Seattle Housing Authorities. These projects include Olive Ridge (1968); Cedarville House (1970); International Terrace (1971); Cedarville Village (1971); and Southridge House (1970). He also developed the Mutiny Sands (1960s) residential area of Whidbey Island.
After turning over the construction business to his three sons, Pleas acquired the Isaacson Steel Service Center (1983), which is still owned by members of the family today and operates under the name Seaport Steel. Pleas served on the Board of Seaport as well as several other companies including Lynden Transport. He passed away in Seattle on June 15, 2008.
– Michael C Houser