Parr, Roderick G.
Roderick Glenn Parr built a successful, but largely unheralded practice, one that graduated rapidly from single-family houses to commercial work. He began designing residences even before he graduated from the University of Washington’s (UW) Department of Architecture in 1951. Like others of his generation, Parr devoted three years to military service during World War II, and began college later than usual. He moved to Puget Sound right after the war and began training at the UW in 1948. The same year, he married Glenna J. Johnson of Seattle and earned enough money to design a residence for them in Bellevue. This first house was published in the Seattle Times on August 18, 1950, which was quite a coup for an undergraduate, and started him quickly in his career.
Aside from wartime service, Parr spent his entire life in Oregon and Washington. He was born in the central Oregon town of Woodburn on May 8, 1925, to a blue-collar family. His father, Glenn Parr, worked as a lumberman in Mansfield, OR, site of a large mill owned by the Coos Bay Lumber Company.
Parr designed several large single-family houses for clients throughout the Puget Sound area, but most were concentrated in Mercer Island, Bellevue and Seattle. These appealing Modern houses employed post and beam frames, huge window expanses, clean, geometric forms and fireplaces used as room partitions. He had a knack for getting his residences and other projects published, his name appearing frequently in the Seattle Times during the 1950s.
Parr worked during the Korean War in the Army Corps of Engineers, but when this service was completed, he incorporated with Michael J. Soldano (1926-2009), in a productive partnership that lasted from 1954-1957. With Soldano, other significant houses included the H.G Witte House (Mercer Island, 1954), Lawrence R. Turnbull House (Mercer Island, 1956), and a model house in a new tract by Drummond and Lane, Inc.-the Trails End Model House (Bellevue, 1959). The Turnbull House, particularly, had planning and stylistic features in common with the Seiler Residence (Mercer Island, 1960). While in this partnership, Parr began branching out beyond the house, to focus on clinics, apartment buildings and small commercial projects, such as the Royer-Megale Clinic (West Seattle, 1956), McLaughlin-Bertoldi Clinic (Seattle, 1956), Mercer Island Lumber Company Building (Mercer Island, 1957), the Senescu Apartment Building (Bellevue, 1959), the Island Terrace Apartments (Mercer Island, 1959), the Islandia Shopping Center (Mercer Island, 1964), and the Durell Products Co. Office Building and Manufacturing Plant (Seattle, 1964). It was in this arena that Parr excelled, producing a very large amount of work in a short period.
Parr dissolved his business with Soldano in 1957, and began a period of intense solo activity. With the number and scale of some commissions increasing by 1963-1964, he expanded his office in 1965, forming Roderick Parr and Associates and hiring Jerry Ruhl (born c. 1940), who would take a leading design role for a decade. Ruhl would later take over Parr’s practice in 1986 which would be renamed Parr-Ruhl and Associates.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Parr had obtained a number of large-scale commissions. The most notable was the 400 108th Avenue N.E. Office Building (later known as the First Mutual Center, 1967), a seven-story tower that was the largest in Bellevue at the time.
He operated his practice until 1986, doing Taco Time and McDonald’s restaurants, as well as condominium complexes and suburban office buildings. Projects such as the Everett Pacific Hotel and Convention Center (1982) kept the practice busy until mid-1980s. In 1986, Parr stepped away from architecture after a busy 30-year career. His last years were spent in La Conner, WA, where he passed away on April 3, 1999.
- Michael C. Houser