Robert D. Theriault

Theriault, Robert D.

(1922 – 2005)

Born on May 23, 1922 in Tacoma, Robert Dennis Theriault graduated from Lincoln High School in 1940. Drafted at the beginning of World War II, Theriault became a navigator/bombardier flying over 35 missions in the Pacific theater. During the war, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant and for his bravery, he received the distinguished Flying Cross medal. In 1945 he returned home and attended the University of Washington on the GI bill, graduating with an architectural degree in 1950. That year he also received his architectural license at the age of 28. Upon graduation, Theriault worked for the engineering office of E.G. Putnam where he gained valuable experience. He then took a job as a drafter/designer for architect Alfred F. Simonson (1950-1952).

In 1952, Theriault joined the architectural firm of Steinhart & Stanley as an associate partner. Quickly, Roy Stanley and Arden Steinhart recognized Theriault’s talent and he was made a partner in 1955. At that time the firm was renamed Steinhart, Stanley & Theriault. After Stanley retired in 1959, Einar Anderson, whom had been a silent partner since 1955, was added to the firm name and it was changed to Steinhart, Theriault & Anderson.

Together the firm designed numerous churches, schools and community buildings in the south Seattle area from the 1950s through 1970s. Many of their projects can be found in the south Puget Sound area, particularly around Burien near where Theriault and Steinhart lived. While design duties were shared by all the partners, Theriault is credited with many of the conceptual design work. The office had a small staff of six to eight, including the partners. While they maintained a policy of “a limited volume of work with personal attention to the client’s problem,” they designed a significant numbers of buildings over a 30-year period.

Notable school projects include the Northeast Senior High School (1959) in Burien; Pacific Junior High School (1960) in Des Moines; Aldercrest Elementary School (1961); Kellogg Middle School (1963) in Shoreline; Benson Hill Elementary (1970) in Renton, as well as most of the buildings at Shoreline Community College (1964-66).

Religious projects include the A-frame St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1962) in Seattle at the base of Queen Anne; Glendale Evangelical Lutheran Church (1968) in Burien; Calvary Lutheran Church (1963) in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood; and John Knox Presbyterian Church (c.1965) in Normandy Park.

The partnership is perhaps best known for the design of their Miesian style office building (1959) at the base of the Eastlake neighborhood along Eastlake Avenue. The 40’ x 28’ steel frame architectural office cantilevers some 14’ from the hillside offering a dramatic expression to passing motorists.

Other known projects by the firm include the Normandy Park Community Center (1960) in Normandy Park; Seattle Library Broadview Branch (1967) & Burien Branch (c. 1968); additions to the Rainier Golf and Country Club (1952, 1958); the Swedish Club (1960) in Seattle; and the 400 Building (1965) in Burien.

The firm continued until 1985 in various forms. In the late 1980s Theriault retired to Whidbey Island. He then traveled extensively to Europe and around the United States.  He passed away on Whidbey Island on November 12, 2005 at the age of 83.

– Michael C Houser

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