Jacobsen, John T.
Born and raised in Seattle, John “Ted” Jacobsen received his formal architectural training at the University of Washington and the University of Pennsylvania where he received a Master’s degree in 1926.
Upon graduation, he worked in Russia designing several community schools. Afterwards he traveled extensively throughout Europe, South America, and Africa. During the Depression, he reportedly worked in New York City and as site architect on the original restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.
Upon returning to Seattle, Jacobsen taught at the University of Washington for several years. He was an avid and accomplished artist, and studied fresco painting at Fontainebleau in Paris. Among his more well known artistic works are the large bas relief murals in the 1935 wing of the Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington, interior murals at the Everett Public Library (1934) and frescoes at the Seattle Trust Court Building (1977).
Jacobsen’s work, which helped set the groundwork for Pacific Northwest modernism, was featured in a variety of publications including Progressive Architecture’s Pencil Points and Pacific Architect & Builder. He formed a partnership with Victor N. Jones and, on his own, was the resident architect for the Seattle Trust Bank. Jacobsen’s best known projects include his own Madison Park home (ca. 1936); the George Horton House (1938); the Armbruster House (1946); Helen Bush Parkside School’s Miller Hall (c.1948); Gerberding Hall (1949) on the University of Washington campus; the Andrew Gunby House (1939); the Dr. C.E. Strother House (c1939); and the Goslin House (1939) —all located in Seattle. During the Depression, Jacobsen teamed up with a select group of architects to create the Yesler Terrace Housing Project (1939-1941) in Seattle. Jacobsen served as principal designer for the project.
Later in life, Jacobsen often worked with Seattle developer Lloyd Martin to design some of Honolulu’s first high-rise buildings, such as the Rosalie Apartments, the Admiral Cook in Waikiki, and the Town House Apartments.
After sailing to Hawaii with his family, Jacobsen remained in the state and worked as local supervising architect for John Graham & Co. on the original Ala Moana Shopping Center (1959) and the Ilikai Hotel (1964). He then established his own firm in Hawaii, specializing in projects with difficult lots. Among his most notable projects in Hawaii are Sea Life Park and research facilities, the Winnie Units at Punahou School, and aviator Charles Lindbergh's home on the Hana coast (1971).
Active in a variety of civic affairs, Jacobsen undertook a survey of historic churches in Maui and became the resident expert on historic buildings for the Bishop Museum. In 1974, he traveled throughout the islands registering many buildings for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Among his most important work was creating the Lahaina Architectural Style Book for the Lahaina County Historic Commission which set the design standards for architecture, signs, lamp posts, etc. for the town of Lahaina in 1969.
Jacobsen passed away in Hawaii on March 5, 1998. Many of his drawings, including his work in Seattle, have been archived at the University of Hawaii Library.
- Michael C. Houser