McDonald, Donald N. Sr.

(1906 - 1964)

Donald Neil McDonald Sr. was born August 6, 1906 in Seattle. He spent 3 years and 6 months (1924-29) in the architectural school at the University of Washington, but for unknown reasons did not received a formal degree.

After schooling he gained practical experience by working as a draftsman in a variety of architectural offices, and spent two years as a senior architectural draftsman for the City of Seattle (1927-1929).

After spending time with the City of Seattle Parks Department, McDonald formed a partnership with Vas Stimson (1930-1935). Known projects are to a remodel for Dr. James Sender's Optical Office (1935) and alterations to the Camlin Hotel (1931) in Seattle; a store building at 8518-24 14th Ave S. (1931) in Seattle; the Elwha Theatre (1932) in Port Angeles; and the Masonic Building in Port Townsend (1932).

Around 1938, he established his own independent practice. Some of initial projects included the Hotel Baranof in Juneau, Alaska (1939); and Tall’s Travel Shop (1939) in downtown Seattle. Reportedly he designed additional hotels in Anchorage and Honolulu but this has not been verified.

After the war, in the mid 1950s, McDonald’s projects seem to have garnered much more attention, at least by the local newspapers. He had a specialty in apartment houses and notable projects in Seattle include an apartment at 9th & Cherry (1955); the Sands Apartments (1958); 700 E. Mercer St. Apartments (1959); Belmont Tower (1959); Capri Apartments (1959); the curtain walled 1221 Minor Ave. Apartments (1960) on Capitol Hill; Seven Hundred East Mercer Street Apartments (1960); and the Laurelhurst Apartments (1960). He also designed the Executive House Apartments (1961) in Portland, Oregon.

Additional projects included Married Student Housing Washington State College (1957) in Pullman; a 200-unit public housing project Lakewood Park in White Center (1963) for the King County Housing Authority; the Tropic Motel (1958); and the Proctor & Associates Office Building (1962) in Bellevue.

McDonald was also involved in several unsuccessful projects of note. Some ahead of their time, others seemingly fairy tale fantasies. They included a proposal for businessmen Philip Kaplan, who wanted to construction a 17-story $5 million dollar glass city hall office tower (1959) which he would lease back to the city; another was to help develop a proposal for a floating football/baseball stadium on Elliott Bay at the foot of Harrison Street (1963) as part of the city’s 10 year redevelopment plan for the Century 21 site.

Donald’ son, Donald Jr., became a builder. The two completed just one project together a home in the Woodridge Glen neighborhood (1960) of Bellevue.

McDonald died unexpectedly after a brief illness on September 6, 1964 on Mercer Island at the young age of 58.

- Michael C. Houser

Photo courtesy of Department of Architectural Licensing.
The Tropic Motel, Seattle (1958) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
Laurelhurst Apartments, Seattle (1960) <br>Photo courtesy of King County Assessor.
Floating Stadium Proposal, Seattle (1959) <br>Photo courtesy of Seattle Times.
1201 Minor Apartments, Seattle (1960) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
700 E. Mercer Street Apartments, Seattle (1959) <br>Photo courtesy of DAHP.
Photo courtesy of Department of Architectural Licensing.