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Pries, Lionel H. (1897-1968)  
page: 1  2  

Pries also developed an interest in printmaking and made drypoint prints that he often gave to friends and clients. A noted collector, Pries exhibited his collections of pre-Columbian, Native American, and Asian artifacts in Washington and California in the 1940s and 1950s.

After World War II, Pries began one of his most successful periods of architectural practice, designing a series of notable regionally appropriate modernist houses in the Northwest. These houses were well-integrated with their sites and often featured sloped roofs, a mix of natural and industrial materials, and large areas of glass.

However, as the architecture program at the University of Washington expanded rapidly, Pries's position changed. The new faculty and new students were much more interested in International Style modernism and the pedagogy of the Bauhaus than in Pries's romantic version of modernism.

In response to this marginalization, Pries became an exceptional figure in the department, teaching a more artistic approach to architecture, in contrast to his younger colleagues who were much more interested in technology and social issues.

In summer 1958, while on a vacation in California, Pries was entrapped in a vice sting in a Los Angeles park. He was charged with a misdemeanor, paid a small fine, and was released.

However, as was customary at the time, when homosexuals were regarded as a security threat and a danger to young people, a report was sent to his employer. The president of the University of Washington, Charles Odegaard, decided that Pries had to be let go. On October 31, 1958, he was forced to resign from his faculty position.

The reason was concealed--all anyone knew was that, after 30 years of teaching, Pries was suddenly gone. It would be close to 40 years before the full story would be told.

Suddenly unemployed at age 61, Pries worked as a drafter for five years until he was able to retire in 1963. He never set foot on the university campus again.

In his last years, he lived quietly, taking on an occasional design project. Freed from the constraints of the university, he developed a circle of gay friends, who often met on Sunday afternoons for drinks, dinner, and conversation.

Pries died of a heart attack on April 7, 1968. He pointedly did not leave his collections of rare books, art objects, or papers to the University of Washington. Later, however, friends and former students donated material to the University Library's Special Collections Division to establish a Lionel Pries Collection.

Lionel Pries was a key contributor to the development of Pacific Northwest modern architecture, both through his own work and that of his students. After his death he was occasionally cited in books by or about his students. It was not until the 2007 publication of a monograph about Pries himself that the full story of his departure from the university was revealed.

The tragedy of his last years is a reminder of the precarious position of homosexuals in the repressive era of the mid-twentieth century.

Jeffrey Karl Ochsner

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Lionel Pries Collection. Special Collections Division, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle.

Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl. Lionel H. Pries, Architect, Artist, Educator: From Arts and Crafts to Modern Architecture. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.

_____. "Modern or Traditional? Lionel H. Pries and Architectural Education at the University of Washington, 1928-1942." Pacific Northwest Quarterly 96 (Summer 2005): 132-50.

Rocker, Andrew. "Lionel H. Pries: Educator of Architects." Arcade 4 (April/May 1984): 1, 8-9.

Rocker, Drew, "Lionel H. Pries." Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994. 228-33.


    Citation Information
    Author: Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl  
    Entry Title: Pries, Lionel H.  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated October 11, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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