Seattle architect Craig A. Harmon was born in Redfield, South Dakota on December 10, 1911. He received his engineering degree from the University of Denver (1932-1935) and an architecture degree from the University of Nebraska (1938). After college Harmon formed a short-lived partnership with architect Arthur Hehnke in Nebraska (Hehnke & Harmon). He then moved to Detroit (1941-1942) and took a job as supervising architect with the architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman & Gyrlls (one of the oldest operating architectural firms in the country). Wanting additional experience, Harmon then moved to Fort Worth, Texas and became a designer for architect Wyatt C. Henrick (1943). His stay in Texas was short, and for reasons unknown he moved west in 1943 and took a job at Boeing Airplane Co. as a plant engineer (1943-1946). While at Boeing, Harmon became friends with Roland Pray and fellow engineer Robert Detrich, and in 1946 the three decided to form their own firm; Harmon, Pray & Detrich Architects & Engineers.
Heavily focused on master planning and engineering, with expertise in utilizing precast building components and pre-stressed structural members, the firm received many large, complex corporate and governmental commissions over a 30-year time span. Their success is measured by the size of the firm, which had grown to over 30 draftsmen by 1960.
Early work included the 300,000 sq. ft. Boeing Aerospace offices, laboratories, warehouse, which at the time of its construction was the largest building in the world at the time using pre-stressed beams and girders (1955). Other known projects included the Seattle Labor Temple (1955); the headquarters for Puget Power Co. (1957) in Bellevue and numerous subsequent switching stations and line headquarters scattered around the Puget Sound; the Operating Engineers “Local 302” Building (1958) in Seattle; Sieg Hall (1960) at the University of Washington with its precast gothic tracery which was featured in Pacific Architect & Builder and Architectural Forum; an addition to Fulmer Hall (1961) at Washington State University; The Aqua Club Inc. (1960) in Kenmore; Smitty’s Pancake House (ca. 1963); the Four Freedoms House retirement home (1964) in Seattle; a multi-story addition to the Snohomish County Courthouse (1964) in Everett; and the Snohomish County District Court (1969) in Lynwood.
Two of the firm’s most notable designs are the Power Control Center for Seattle City Light (1963), and the King County Administration Building (1971). Located at the base of Queen Anne in Seattle, the octagonal Power Control Center boasts a near windowless cast concrete sculptural form, while the County Administration building utilized a ridged bronze aluminum triangular grid curtain wall.
Master planning projects included the Valhalla neighborhood (1959); the Aurora North Master plan (a 63-acre development, 1969); the award winning Kent Valley Industrial Park plan (1968); and the master plan for the expansion of the East Capitol Campus in Olympia which afforded the firm subsequent designs for the Employment Security Building (1962), the Highway & Licenses Building (1962), and the State Archives Building (1963).
Harmon, who also maintained a firm of his own, developed with his son, Mark, and Robert Detrich, the Admiral’s Cove on Whidbey Island which was billed as the second largest vacation community in United States at the time of its development in 1967-1969.
Harmon, a licensed engineer, was also an avid golfer and founded the Pacific Coast Golf Association. He was also a former director of the Pacific Northwest Golf Association, was a committee member for the Junior Golf Foundation for the Western Washington Chapter of the US Golf Association, and was past president of the Inglewood Golf Club.
The firm dissolved in 1975 and Harmon passed away the following year in Seattle on May 13, 1976.
- Michael C. Houser