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Nelsen, Ibsen (1919-2001) Essay 7267 : Printer-Friendly Format

Ibsen Nelsen was a Seattle-based architect who designed the Museum of Flight, the Inn at the Market, and several buildings at Western Washington University in Bellingham, among other buildings. He was an important influence for historic preservation in the Puget Sound region.

Nelsen grew up in Nebraska and in Medford, Oregon. "He was a dust-bowl refugee," said Eric Nelsen. "He fled Ruskin and moved to Medford, Oregon -- just like in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath" (The Seattle Times). He came to Seattle in 1951, after service in the infantry in World War II's Pacific campaigns where he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He received a degree in architecture from the University of Oregon. He moved to Seattle in 1951 and opened an architecture office in the University District in 1953.

Along with colleagues Ralph Anderson (1924-2010), Victor Steinbrueck  (1911-1985), furniture maker Masin Black, investor Alan Black, and developer Richard White, Nelsen was active in preserving landmarks in Seattle, including historic buildings in Pioneer Square and in the Pike Place Market.

He was president of Allied Arts and a chairman of the Seattle Arts Commission. He was also also a principal in less formal groups such as The Chowder Society, interested in the future of Seattle. Nelsen also worked part time as an associate professor of Architecture at the University of Washington from 1957 to 1965.

Other commissions include renovations to the headquarters for the Boy Scouts of America on Rainier Avenue, the Merrill Court Town Houses on Capitol Hill, the restoration of the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, and the home of artist Morris Graves in Loleta, California, "The Lake."

Nelsen died on July 19, 2001 after complications from prostate cancer.

Frank Vinluan and Sheila Farr, "Architect Who Created Museum of Flight Dies," The Seattle Times, July 2, 2001, p. B-1; Regina Hackett, "Richard White Dies," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 26, 2002, p. B-8; Regina Hackett, "Scouts 'Message in the Mountains' Not Clear," Ibid., May 28, 2002, p. E-1.

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Related Topics: Biographies | Buildings |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
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Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

Architects Ibsen Nelsen (left) and Fred Bassetti in August 1984
Detail from a photo by Mary Randlett, copyright 1984

Museum of Flight (Ibsen Nelsen), 2000
Courtesy Museum of Flight

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