Ridley, John T.
(1913 – 1997)
John Thompson Ridley was born on December 26, 1913 in Galt, Canada. He graduated from the University of Toronto’s School of Architecture in 1937 where he received several distinguished awards for his design work. After graduation, he worked in England and Sweden for two-and-a-half years. He also took the opportunity to study contemporary design throughout Europe. With the war raging in Europe, in 1940 Ridley returned to the United States initially worked for a firm in New York. Before migrating to the Pacific Northwest in 1942, he worked briefly for architect John G. Turnbull in Cleveland, Ohio. His first job in Washington State was in Spokane working for the firm of Whitehouse & Price (1942-43). He then moved to the west side of the state and worked as chief designer for the firm of NBBJ (1943-45). After a short stint with architect Paul Thiry, in 1946 he decided to form his own practice, initially taking on a partnership with John Thompson. Later Thompson was replaced by Bjarne Olsen and Oliver Olson.
Ridley’s designs received a fair amount of press during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many appeared in national and regional magazines such as Pacific Northwest Home (1947), Popular Mechanics and Better Homes & Gardens. During this time, notable designs include the Dwight Panchot House in the View Ridge neighborhood of Seattle (1951) which was featured in the May 1951 issue of House & Garden magazine and was a 1953 Seattle AIA Honor Award winner; and the Robert Keals House (1955) in Blue Ridge neighborhood. Two homes built by builder/developer Albert Balch received much press after they were entered in 1956 Homes for Better Living contest. During the 1950s he worked extensively with noted builder Albert Balch on several of his subdivisions including Parkwood, Park Row, Lark Lane and Park Avenue.
In 1955, Ridley joined the firm of John Graham & Co. and became a lead designer. Projects during this time credited to Ridley include the Pacific National Bank in Bellevue (1958) and a home featured in Popular Mechanics’ annual housing issue. On the side, Ridley designed a home for Howard Kroehls on Bainbridge Island in 1960. Reportedly the home was styled after Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian style dwellings. His most significant project however was his direct involvement in the design of the Space Needle (1961). Ridley is credited with perfecting the design details of the double-decked “top house” crown. He remained with the Graham firm until 1979.
Ridley passed away in Seattle on September 24, 1997.
– Michael C Houser