Bumgardner, Albert O.
Born in Chatham, Illinois in 1923, Albert Orin Bumgardner graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S. degree in architecture in 1949. He moved to Seattle in 1949, drawn to the city by seeing the published works of local architects Paul Thiry, Paul Hayden Kirk and Fred Bassetti. Upon his arrival he worked for the Army Corp of Engineers, then took a job with the architectural firm of Ralph Burkhart & Associates.
In 1953 he started an independent practice that, over the next 30+ years, produced many local, regional and national award winning projects. Bumgardner and/or his firm received Seattle AIA Honor Awards on a regular basis from 1954 to 1975. Among his more notable early projects was the Chester Bartholomew House (1960 Seattle AIA Home of the Year Award); the A.O. Moore House; the Thomas Graham House (1956 Seattle AIA Home of the Year Award); Wallace Reed House (1959 Seattle AIA Home of the Year Award); and the Bracher House. In February 1958, announcing his position as architectural advisor to Pacific Architect & Builder (PA & B) magazine, the architectural publication featured his Graham House in order to “help familiarize our readers with Bumgardner’s work.” Such publication of Bumgardner’s work continued on a regular basis with PA & B and was also picked up by Sunset Magazine.
As his practice expanded, in 1957 he hired two young architects from the University of Washington, Al Dreyer and Peter Parsons. The practice worked out of Bumgardner’s home on E. Broadway and became a close knit office. In 1960, Dreyer and Parsons became partners. The name of the firm was changed to the Bumgardner Partnership in 1967. In 1960 the firm was awarded the architectural commission to design a new home for Pacific Architect & Builder in Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood.
Widely published, the commission brought additional commercial and institutional work. Projects included the Evergreen State College Seminar Building (1972) and Residence Halls (1971-72); the Port Ludlow Beach Club (1972); the South Campus Center at the University of Washington (1974); the Tulalip Community Center (1974); and the Summit Tower Apartments (1974). The increased work load also brought new talent into the firm including David Wright, Mark Simpson, David Hodemaker; David Fukui and Jenny Sue Brown. During the 1980s the firm, now called Bumgardner Architects, secured many large urban mixed use projects including Market Place North (1982); Waterfront Place; the Watermark Tower (1983); and the Alexis Hotel.
Active in a variety of local and civic affairs, Bumgardner had a big impact on young architects. In the early 1950s he was recruited by the Seattle chapter of the AIA to organize a series of professional development seminars for young architects. The series was a huge success and he continued to be involved with the Seattle chapter of the AIA acting as Treasurer in 1956 and 1957, and later becoming chapter President in 1963. In 1971, Bumgardner was elected as a fellow to the AIA and in 1987 he received the AIA Seattle Medal. During the early 1970s, Bumgardner was a member of a group of activist architects who became highly influential in urban revitalization and development efforts in downtown Seattle. As chairman of the Joint Commission of the Planning Commission and the Commission on Historic Zoning, he directed the drafting of the ordinance that created the Pioneer Square Historic District. Recognizing his influence, then Mayor Wes Uhlman named him to head Seattle’s first Design Commission. Other activities included membership of the Allied Arts, Historic Seattle and the Environmental Works Community Design Center.
Bumgardner passed away in Seattle in 1987 leaving a lasting legacy.
-Michael C. Houser