Villesvik, John S.
(1905 – 1993)
Born on August 1, 1905 in Bagley, Minnesota, John Storm Villesvik attended grade school in Spokane, Washington before moving to Tacoma, where he graduated from Lincoln High School in 1923. He studied architecture at the University of Washington, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1929. An excellent student, Villesvik was a member of the Tau Sigma Delta National Honorary Architectural Fraternity and received several scholarships and accolades for his design work. These included the Charles Bebb Prize (1925) and the Gladding McBean Prize. During the fall of 1928, Villesvik was also awarded the Walker Traveling Scholarship for architectural study in Europe and enrolled at the prestigious Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts (graduating in the summer of 1928).
During school, Villesvik had gained valuable experience working as a bricklayer and carpenter in the summers. He also worked in a variety of architectural offices including J.L. McCauley; Naramore & Menke; W.J. Bain; Doyle & Merriam; Sherwood D. Ford; and Baker, Vogel & Roush.
He received his architectural license on December 21, 1929, at the young age of twenty-four and then went to work for Yakima architect John Maloney who operated the most prominent architecture firm in town. Villesvik quickly rose up the ranks from draftsman to designer, and then to job captain. In 1943, when Maloney opened up a second practice in Seattle, his business in the Yakima Valley started to wane. Villesvik, saw a need to have a locally dedicated architecture firm in Yakima and decided to open his own independent practice in April 1945.
Having been the primary contact for the Maloney firm in Yakima for several years, Villesvik did not have any problems branching out on his own or finding work. By the mid-1950s, the practice had grown to six employees. One of the most important employees was Maurice R. Smith, who joined the firm in 1946, became an associate in 1957, and eventually partner in 1962. In time, Smith bought out the firm when Villesvik retired in 1972. From 1947 to 1957 the firm produced $10.5 million dollars in projects. In 1957 alone, they had over $2.6 million worth of projects in the planning stages.
The work of the firm ranged from residential to commercial, but included many civic structures, institutional buildings, and a variety of churches. Notable projects included the Main Yakima Library (1959); the Yakima County Courthouse addition (1962); the Yakima Valley Museum (1958); several elementary schools for the Yakima School District (1955-1956); and Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church (1957). Many of their residential commissions were for professional clients including homes for Dr. Herr (1947); Dr. Low (1947); Harold Cahoon (1950) owner of Cahoon Motors, Dr. C.I. Hood House (1951), and lumberman Fred Young (1954).
Villesvik’s work was published in a variety of magazines in the 1952 and 1953 issues of Construction News Bulletin and the 1951 issue of Church Property Administration. Displays of his work were found at the School Planning Conference; the National Convention American Association of School Administrators; and at the International Conference of Public Education in Switzerland (1957). After more than thirty years, Villesvik retired in 1972. He passed away on July 16, 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona.
– Michael C Houser