Ridley, John T.

(1913 - ?)

John Thompson Ridley was born on December 26, 1913 in Galt, Canada. He graduated from the University of Toronto’s School of Architecture in 1937 where he recieved several distinguished awards for his design work. After graduation, he worked in England and Sweden for two-and-a-half years. He also took the opportunity to study contemporary design throughout Europe. In 1940, Ridley returned to the United States and worked in New York before migrating to the Pacific Northwest in 1942. Ridley worked as a chief designer for the firm of NBBJ (1943-45) and for architect Paul Thiry (1946). In 1946, he formed a short-lived partnership with Bjarne Olsen and Oliver Olson, before establishing an independent practice on Bainbridge Island.

While today many of Ridley’s designs are unknown, he appears to have received a fair amount of press during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Many of his designs appeared in national and regional magazines such as Pacific Northwest Home (1947), Popular Mechanics and Better Homes & Gardens. During this time, notable designs include the Dwight Panchot House in the View Ridge neighborhood of Seattle (1951) which was featured in the May 1951 issue of House & Garden magazine and was a 1953 Seattle AIA Honor Award winner.

In May 1951, Ridley formed a new short-lived partnership named Chapin, Johnson & Ridley, which provided integrated design service including structural engineering, interior design, and landscape architecture. During the 1950s he worked extensively with noted builder Albert Balch on several of his subdivisions including Parkwood, Park Row, Lark Lane and Park Avenue. Other notable work include the Robert Keals House (1955) in Blue Ridge neighborhood.

In 1955, Ridley joined the firm of John Graham & Co. and became a lead designer. Projects during this time credited to Ridley include the Pacific National Bank in Bellevue (1958) and a home featured in Popular Mechanics’ annual housing issue. Ridley's Howard Kroehls House on Bainbridge Island (1960) was styled after Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian style homes. his most significant project however was his direct involvement in the design of the Space Needle (1961). Ridley is credited with perfecting the design details of the double-decked “top house” crown. He remained with the Graham firm until 1979.

Docomomo WEWA is seeking additional information about the life and work of John T. Ridley.

- Michael C. Houser

Photo courtesy of Seattle Times.
Panchot House, Seattle (1951)<br>Photo courtesy of UW Special Collections.
Pacific National Bank, Bellevue (1958)<br>Photo courtesy of Pacific Architect.
Model Home, Seattle (c.1955)<br>Photo courtesy of UW Special Collections.
Space Needle, Seattle (1961)<br>Photo courtesy of M. Houser.
Albert Bach Spec House, Popular Mechanics (Oct 1956)<br>Photo courtesy of Google Books.
Photo courtesy of Seattle Times.