Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians records , 1969-

Overview of the Collection

Society of Architectural Historians. Marion Dean Ross/Pacific Northwest Chapter
Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians records
1969- (inclusive)
4.25 linear feet, (9 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 316
The Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), formally reorganized under the current title in 1995, is an organization of scholars, architects, preservationists, planners, professionals in allied fields, and the interested public. The Chapter jurisdiction encompasses Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. The collection includes Chapter publications, scholarly papers read before the Chapter, video and digital productions, annual meeting proceedings, and announcements and newsletters.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary.

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Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Society of Architectural Historians was founded on the East Coast, at Harvard University, in 1940 to promote the study of worldwide architecture. Fourteen years later, in 1954, a West Coast chapter named the Pacific Section was formed at the call of Elliot A. P. Evans in San Francisco, where Professor Evans was curator of the California Society of Pioneers. It was the sixth local or regional chapter of the learned society to be organized. Its early meetings typically were held in the San Francisco Bay region. In 1962, the spread-out Pacific Coast constituency was subdivided with the organization of a Southern California Chapter. The balance of the jurisdiction, ranging from San Francisco Bay north to encompass the Pacific Northwest, adopted the name Northern Pacific Coast Chapter in 1965. The northern group reorganized once more. It separated from California altogether in 1995 and adopted the name of its late leader, Marion Dean Ross. In the following year, a Northern California Chapter centering on the Bay Area was formed as the final subdivision of the original Pacific Section. Today, the Marion Dean Ross/Pacific Northwest Chapter jurisdiction embraces three states and a Canadian province, namely, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia.

The Society of Architectural Historians has sought to fulfill its mission by engaging scholars, architects, preservationists, planners, professionals in allied design fields, and the general public in the study and discussion of the world's heritage in architecture. From the time of its origin, the regional chapter promoted awareness of architectural resources on the West Coast. By their participation in tours and sessions of scholarly papers at conference venues ranging from San Francisco Bay to British Columbia, faculty of the various schools of architecture and staff of historical and preservation agencies enhanced their knowledge and, in turn, shared that knowledge with students and the public. Individual members have published books and articles on the region's resources. From time to time, Chapter members have acted as expert advocates by writing or testifying in defense of threatened landmarks.

The Chapter's first publication was a Festschrift in observance of the sixty-fifth birthday of Professor Marion Ross, whose teaching career at the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts spanned the years 1947 to 1978, Professor Ross long maintained his post-retirement connection to the School as a part-time and special lecturer. To mark its fiftieth anniversary, the Chapter produced a history entitled Scholars and Sightseers: The Society of Architectural Historians in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest 1954-2004. The history reviewed the founding of the national organization and its West Coast affiliate. It identified the scholars who presented papers over the years; it listed the Chapter officers and, among other details, showed the pattern that emerged for rotating conferences throughout the Society's large geographic subdivision.

Membership in the organization is open to all, regardless of profession or expertise, who are interested in the study, interpretation, and protection of historically significant buildings, sites, and cities. The organization counts more than three thousand individuals and institutions worldwide.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Marion Dean Ross Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians Records consists mainly of formal proceedings and cardinal business records, membership lists, some member obituary information, curricula vitae of speakers, meeting programs, and scholarly papers read before the Chapter from the time manuscripts began to be collected systematically in the 1990s. The collection also includes files relating to Chapter publications, including the Festschrift of 1978 that honored Professor Ross in his sixty-fifth year, and Scholars and Sightseers, the fiftieth anniversary history of the organization issued in 2004. The latter names Chapter officers over the fifty-year period and incorporates a list of most of the papers presented at Chapter meetings since 1954. The collection also contains specimen copies of several educational products, including a video documentary on a Seattle house designed by a notable contemporary architect and a limited-edition monograph documenting an exceptional settlement-era Classic Revival farmhouse on French Prairie in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

In 1995, the Northern Pacific Coast Chapter reorganized as the Marion Dean Ross Chapter (also called Marion Dean Ross/Pacific Northwest Chapter). The southern limit of the jurisdiction was set at the Oregon/California border and thereby allowed members in northern California to organize as a counterpart to the Southern California Chapter. The Pacific Northwest jurisdiction nevertheless remained broad, embracing Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia. Leadership was elected every two years to be geographically representative of this large area and consequently there was no home base. To ensure that business records, newsletters, conference programs, and proceedings of the annual meetings that document the Chapter's history would be preserved and yet accessible to officers and researchers, it was arranged for the Chapter's records to be established in Special Collections and Archives at the University of Oregon, where the late Chapter founder centered his teaching career and where his papers are held. The first records were deposited, and the collection established, in 1999.

Another impetus for establishing the collection was the Chapter's initiative to collect typescripts of as many of the papers presented to the Chapter as could be gathered. In recent years, it had become established policy that a speaker would retain the copyright for his or her work but would be expected to present a clean copy of the paper to be archived for scholarly purposes.

Although arrangement of the collection is essentially chronological, the content of the folders and accessory items is best described according to four main categories.

Chapter History and Biography. This group of records includes an abstract of events leading to organization of the Pacific Section of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) in San Francisco in 1954, the establishment of the Marion Dean Ross Chapter in the Pacific Northwest, biographical information on Marion Dean Ross, biographical information on the Chapter's members, and records documenting the fiftieth anniversary history project.

The biographical material pertaining to Professor Marion Ross (1913-1991) contains a curriculum vita, candid photographs, two articles published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, tributes and memorials, and accounts of his bequests to the University of Oregon Department of Art History for an endowed chair and rare books acquisitions.

A limited amount of biographical material is also included in folders on the Chapter's other founding figures, Elliot A. P. Evans (1907-1988), and Joseph Armstrong Baird (1922-1992). In their folders are one portrait each and copies of their articles published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Folders containing curricula vitae of speakers and member obituary articles provide useful biographical information even though the coverage is more intermittent than systematic. Among those whose careers are noted in the folders are two Chapter members named in 1999 to the original class of Fellows of the Society of Architectural Historians: Marian Card Donnelly and Alan Gowans. Professor Gowans, late emeritus faculty member of the University of Victoria, was national president of the SAH 1972-1974, and Professor Donnelly, late emeritus member of the faculty of the University of Oregon, was President 1976-1978.

Chapter Business Records. Membership lists and conference programs which name each speaker and his or her topic and professional affiliation, provide a picture of the Chapter's geographic distribution over time. For example, of 234 individual names on the 1999 member roster, 123 were those of Washington state residents. There were 74 Oregonians, 24 Idahoans, and 13 residents of British Columbia. In the membership records it is possible to see the names of promising students and scholars in early stages of their careers. Those who went on to positions of prominence are exemplified by Lee H. Nelson, long-time head of the Technical Preservation Assistance Division of the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

Cardinal business records in the collection include Chapter by-laws and articles of incorporation, those stemming from the reorganization of 1995 being the documents presently in effect. Equally important is the Chapter's notification of exempt status as a non-profit educational organization under Internal Revenue Code. The importance of the IRS determination lies in providing the opportunity to members and others to make tax-deductible contributions in support of Chapter projects. Following the customary provisional approval period of several years, the final determination letter was provided in April, 2000.

The general business records report the officers and makeup of the board of directors and include selected correspondence which documents, for example, the Chapter's efforts to establish a competitive Founders' Award for outstanding student paper. The long-held objective of encouraging participation of younger scholars was finally realized when the Lovett Award in support of younger scholars was established in 1996. The Wendell Lovett Award Fund provides stipends for young scholars to present papers on relevant topics at the Chapter's annual conferences. The fund was initiated with a shared contribution of $1,000 by Wendell Lovett, F.A.I.A., a prominent Seattle architect, and University of Washington emeritus faculty member Grant Hildebrand. It was subsequently replenished in generous spirit by the original donor and with additional gifts from Grant Hildebrand, Miriam Sutermeister, and T. William Booth.

The Chapter's Marion Dean Ross Distinguished Service Award was instituted by the executive board in 2001. Recipients are announced during the Chapter's annual meeting.

By the late 1980s, the Chapter's announcements of meetings, then still being held twice yearly, had taken on an array of information relating to the prospective meeting location and supplementary news of general interest. Through the 1990s, a regular semi-annual newsletter evolved with compositional polish aided by personal computer software programs. In this period the pattern of two or more meetings of the Chapter per year was dropped in favor of a once-yearly conference of several days during which time the annual general meeting for conducting Chapter business takes place.

Correspondence in the business records also documents development of a Chapter Web site from 1999 onward. Ultimately, the Chapter established its independent URL The Web site is important as a means of communication for executive officers and constituents, and it complements the function of the semi-annual newsletters as an efficient method of posting announcements. It also promotes participation in the annual conferences through an online registration option.

In this category there is also included a representative gathering of candid photographs of Chapter members engaged in walking tours, social periods, and formal presentations.

Educational Productions. While publication of the Festschrift in honor of Professor Ross in 1978 was a significant accomplishment, the most ambitious project taken up by the Chapter was the production of video documentaries on several noteworthy houses of recent date in the environs of Seattle that were visited by the membership during the 1999 annual conference.

The concept behind the filming was to make a record of the work of renowned regional architects while the architects were on site to describe the creative process. Dr. Charles Simonyi, client, and Wendell Lovett, designer of the Simonyi Villa, donated start-up funds. Narrative texts were drafted and filming was done on the spot. When grant support for producing the footage fell through, private funds were sought to edit the first phase of the project. The Gilbert and Erselle Eade house at Hunt's Point completed in 1969 from the design of Royal McClure was given priority because the house changed hands after the Chapter meeting of 1999 and was extensively remodeled. The Chapter's copyrighted footage, produced in both film video and digital compact disk form, is a valuable record of the historic appearance of an extraordinary house rooted in the tradition of the Northwest School. The Chapter's documentary venture will be complete with production of the films featuring Mr. Lovett's High Modernist masterworks, Simonyi Villa (1987 onward) and the Cutler-Girdler house (1997) in Medina, overlooking Lake Washington.

The latest of the Marion Dean Ross Chapter's educational productions was published in limited number under Chapter copyright in 2007 by Grant Hildebrand and Miriam Sutermeister. A Greek Temple in French Prairie: The William Case House, French Prairie, Oregon, 1858-59 is a color-illustrated one hundred-page treatment in soft cover of a remarkable settlement-era Classic Revival farmhouse in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The house was built in 1859 as the headquarters of a busy and productive farming operation founded by land claimant William Case. Apart from its generous size, the house if known for its distinctive peripteral colonnade and its historic red exterior paint treatment. Hildebrand and Sutermeister were drawn to their project after a first visit to the present occupants and restorers of the house, fellow SAHers Wallace Huntington, A.S.L.A., and Mirza Dickel, A.S.I.D., both past presidents of the Chapter, as was Sutermeister. Over a period of several years the Seattle-based authors visited their friends and conducted research aimed a more completely documenting the character of the farmhouse both in its historic period and as restored and enhanced by gardens.

A booklet of artistic interest, while not an educational project sponsored by the Chapter, was prepared by past Chapter president Earl Drais Layman (1916-2001), a University of Oregon-trained architect who was the founding, longtime head of the City of Seattle Office of Urban Conservation. Mr. Layman was a member of the SAH board of directors 1989-1992 and organized for the Society a 1981 foreign study tour focused on medieval France and a 1988 domestic tour of Portland and the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley tour itinerary booklet illustrated with eleven of the architect's deft pen and ink sketches of architectural landmarks is included in the collection.

Abstracts and Manuscripts. Scholarly papers, that part of the collection likely to be of greatest general interest, are not comprehensively represented except by title and speaker name. Prospective speakers submit their proposals in the form of a one-page abstract. Under Chapter protocol adopted in 1994, once selections for a given conference program are made, speakers are asked to provide a copy of their manuscript for the Chapter archive while they retain the copyright. A good representative sample of abstracts of accepted papers dating from the 1970s onward is included in the collection. Manuscripts, however, proved more difficult to round up from speakers until the protocol was adopted. Only a few manuscripts submitted before 1994 may be found in the collection.

From a remarkably complete record of the names of speakers who made presentations to the Chapter and the titles of their papers, it is possible at least to gain a sense of the subject matter that has engaged the interest of Chapter meeting speakers over fifty years' time. Gaps in the record of meetings are rare and occur only in 1956, 1963, and 1966, years for which no program information could be found. The list of papers read before the Chapter was compiled and included as an appendix in the fiftieth anniversary history.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Architects--Northwest, Pacific.
  • Architects--United States
  • Architecture--Northwest, Pacific
  • Architecture--Northwest, Pacific--Societies, etc.
  • Historic preservation--Northwest, Pacific
  • Historic preservation--Northwest, Pacific--Societies, etc.

Personal Names

  • Ross, Marion Dean

Corporate Names

  • Society of Architectural Historians. Marion Dean Ross/Pacific Northwest Chapter

Form or Genre Terms

  • Membership lists
  • Photographs
  • Video recordings (physical artifacts)