Christenson, Waldo B.
Waldo Barrickman Christenson was born July 18, 1908 in Leeds, North Dakota. After graduating from high school in Everett, he received his Bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Washington in 1932. A talented student, Christenson was awarded the Bebb Prize for his design work and an AIA Scholarship Medal in 1931. While still in school he was employed as a store fixture designer for Win Percy, Inc. (1927-1936) and upon graduation was elevated to head architect for company.
Then in 1936 he was hired as designer and job captain for the architectural firm of McClelland & Jones. While there he gained valuable experience until he opened his own independent architectural practice in 1945. Christenson's early work included several industrial and commercial projects including a 17,000 sq. ft. factory building for North West Store Equipment Corp (1946) in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. It featured a continuous eave line of glass block which offered a gracious amount of light onto the factory floor. Other projects included buildings for the Carter Rice Paper Co (1947); and Dawson Machinery Co. (1947) in Seattle; a showroom and shop for Green Motor Co. (1948) in Bothell; and an addition to Klopfenstein’s Furniture Co. (1950) in Tacoma.
In 1950, Christenson formed a partnership with architect Ralf Decker (1950 to 1959). Together the firm quickly became well respected in the Seattle area. In 1956 they added engineer Charles Kitchen to the partnership and the name of the firm was changed to Decker, Christenson & Kitchen, Architect & Engineers.
Their work, which stretched statewide, included a wide range of property types from single-family residences, to churches, restaurants, medical buildings, government offices, and industrial structures. Clients included the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Navy, the Seattle Public Library system, Snohomish County, the University of Washington, Washington State University, Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company, First National Bank of Seattle, Merrill Lynch, and JC Penney.
Notable projects by the firm, in which Christenson served as the lead designer, include Vernell’s Fine Candies (1952), which received a National AIA Merit Award 1953; Star Machinery (1953); Kraabel Clinic (1951); the 15th Church of Christ Scientist (1955); and the Greenwood Branch Library (1954), all in Seattle. He was also responsible for the design of Harold’s Restaurant (1954) and Tradewell Market (1955) on Mercer Island (1954); the First National Bank of Redmond (1952); the Rownd-Muller Clinic (1952) in Bremerton; and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (1950) in Olympia.
Other projects by the firm include the Tacoma Greyhound Bus Terminal (1956); Roosevelt High School gym; Heald Hall at WSU (1962); MacKenzie, Donald and Balmer Hall at the University of Washington (1960-1962); and several restaurants for restaurateur Walter Clark. The firm’s 140’ high antenna tower on Queen Anne Hill for Bell Telephone (c. 1960) won an AIA Honor Award, as well as the firms design for the University Federal Savings & Loan (1959).
After the sudden death of Christenson on May 16, 1959, the firm continued, changing its name to Ralf E. Decker AIA Architects. In 1967, after taking on new partners, the named was changed again to Decker, Kolb & Stansfield.
Christenson was very active in the AIA. He served as Treasurer of the Washington State Chapter in 1947, and then as President from 1948 to 1950. He also served as AIA Northwest District Director from 1953-1956.
-Michael C. Houser