Robert H. Wohleb

Wohleb, Robert H.

(1916 – 1966)

Born and raised in Olympia, Robert H. Wohleb graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor in Architecture in 1939. In 1946, Wohleb joined his father’s architectural firm in Olympia. Joseph Wohleb had established a prestigious firm in Olympia, taking on a variety of high profile commissions including several buildings on the Capitol campus. As time progressed, the young Wohleb began taking on an increasing role in the firm, and in 1949, the firm’s name was changed to Wohleb & Wohleb. After his father passed away in 1958, the firm name was changed to Robert H. Wohleb Associates.

Struggling to rise above the shadows of his more famous father, Robert Wohleb found his niche by specializing in the design of breweries. His brewery projects, numbering in the dozens, can be found scattered throughout the United States. Among his Pacific Northwest designs are Columbia Brewery/Heidelberg Brewing Co. in Tacoma (1954) and several buildings at Olympia Brewery in Tumwater.

Other notable projects include a variety of federal buildings and schools, the State Theater (1949), St. Michael’s Catholic Church (1966), several homes in the Stratford Place Addition in Olympia, and Memorial Hospital (1948). His most noteworthy design however is Olympia City Hall (1966). The round donut shaped building received wide publicity at the time of construction. Its central core, the round council chambers, was originally surrounded by a fish-filled moat.

Wohleb was an active member of the Olympia Port Commission and served on a variety of other civic groups. He was also chairman of the Washington State Board of Architectural Examiners (1954-1955).

At the height of his career, Wohleb died suddenly in 1966 at age 50, the result of a tragic boating accident. Upon his death, the firm was bought out by his associates, Irving Flotree and Ronald Sogge. They maintained the Wohleb records for many years, eventually donating the Wohleb & Wohleb firm archives to the University of Washington.

– Michael C Houser

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