John R. Sproule

Sproule, John R.

(1908 – 1993)

Born in Winnipeg, Canada, John “Jack” Robert Sproule came to the United States with his parents, first to Tacoma, then to Seattle. His formal architectural training was from the University of Washington, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1934. While at school, Sproule won a competition to design 4″ bronze metals which were awarded to straight “A” students. During school, Sproule gained valuable experience by interning with J. Lister Holmes and Paul Thiry.

Upon graduation, Sproule won two honorable mentions in a national “Modernize Main Street Competition” sponsored by Architectural Forum; one for an apparel Shop and the other for an automobile sales shop. In 1936, he opened his own practice and received his Washington State Architectural license in June of 1937. Among his first projects was the Smith House (1936). The split entry, three-level modernist house brought him much acclaim and was featured in a variety of local, regional and national architectural publications. The book, America’s Best Small House, published the design as late as 1949, calling the home’s windows a “clever arrangement which recalls a Mondrian painting.”

Many of Sproule’s early work focused on the pure geometry of the International Style. His best designs from this period include a home for himself in the Laurelhurst neighborhood (1936), and the Shaffer House (1946) in Seattle. Other notable designs include the Home Management House (1942) at the University of Washington; and a joint venture for public housing during the war—the Holly Park Public Housing Project (1943, with Paul Thiry, Fred Ahlson, and John Paul Jones).

During World War II, Sproule served in the Scientific Research & Development Program at Princeton and returned to Seattle in 1948 to become an instructor at the University of Washington’s School of Architecture. By 1951, he rose to an assistant professor, and eventually to associate professor by 1960. Later projects include the Ballard Animal Hospital (1955, with Victor Steinbrueck), and the Park Drive Apartments (1956). Sproule retired from the University in 1978 and passed away in Seattle on October 17, 1993.

– Michael C Houser

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