Little has been recorded about the architectural firm of Knapp & West, whose principals, Thomas L. West and Jacob Knapp, were both Seattle residents.
Lost in History: A Successful Architect
Seattle city directories list the partnership from 1905 through 1909. Beyond that, no mention of either can be found with the exception of a reference to Thomas L. West in partnership with Charles C. Dose and Claude A. Reinoehl, who together published Architecture of Dose, West & Reinoehl in 1908. Dose, the son of well-known real-estate developer, is known for having designed numerous Craftsman style houses.
It is probable Thomas L. West was the creative force in the firm of Knapp & West. At the time of their partnership a magazine known as The Coast covered the cultural, natural, and built environments of the Pacific Northwest in the early part of the twentieth century. West, introduced as "one of the most successful architects of the Northwest," contributed monthly from February 1906 through May 1907 through a series titled "Architecture of the Pacific Northwest."
Who Was Jacob Knapp?
The articles feature numerous designs from the firm of Knapp & West accompanied by photographs and plans of many of the firm's designs. The articles provide a unique insight into the prevailing tastes in residential architecture of the Northwest in that period and the only known record of the work of the firm.
Interestingly, Jacob Knapp was not mentioned in any of the articles, his name appearing only on the photographs. Further, before 1905 Knapp was listed only as a draftsman for the Fred L. Fehrens Company while West was already established as an architect at that time.
After 1909, West was listed alone in the city directories, Knapp's name no longer appearing anywhere in subsequent directories. Further, advertising by West in 1909 and 1910 feature photographs of houses with Knapp's name crudely scratched off.
A Spectacular Home
The most spectacular design of the firm was the Alexander Pantages House. A few of the designs produced by the firm still exist, but none that meet the highly eclectic and ornate nature of the Pantages House. Although similarity in design elements exists between the house and others designed by the firm, the Pantages house is particularly ostentatious. It would seem that there is more to the story, particularly given the nature of the business of the man who had it built. Alexander Pantages (1876-1936) was a theatrical entrepreneur with a great impact on the development of popular stage entertainments in the Puget Sound region in the early twentieth century.
Preliminary research reveals that some Knapp & West houses are extant. Through the names of the house owners in the articles, a search into period directories reveal addresses in some cases. As of this writing (July 2001), only two of the houses were positively identified: 1514 35th Avenue (Edith E. Wundekind, The Coast May, 1907) and 1625 13th Avenue (Mr. Max Ragley, The Coast, January 1907).