Edwin Butler Crittenden
1915 - 2015
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Edwin Butler Crittenden, often called "the father" or "dean" of Alaska architecture, died on Jan. 10, 2015, at the Anchorage Pioneer Home. He was 99 years old. Ed was born and grew up in New Haven, Conn., the third of five children of Harriet Butler and Walter Eaton Crittenden. He and Kit, his wife of 65 years, met and married in Ketchikan, Alaska, in 1944, where Ed was stationed with the U.S. Coast Guard, following his graduation from the Yale University School of Architecture in 1942, and where Kit had gone for a post-college summer visit with a friend. The first of their six children, Katie, was born there in 1945. After he left the Coast Guard in 1946, Ed moved his young family to Santa Paula, Calif., where he went to work with a friend from his undergraduate days at Pomona College. Their son, John, was born there in 1947. The family then moved to Massachusetts, where Ed began further graduate work at M.I.T. While there, however, he saw an announcement posted on a bulletin board about a job with the Alaska Territorial Housing Authority. He applied, was offered the job and the then-family of four moved to Anchorage, where the couple's four more children, Jim, Elizabeth, Davis and Harriet, were all born at the old Providence Hospital on L Street. Ed started his own architecture practice in Anchorage in 1950, and over the years he partnered with others and mentored a number of younger architects who went on to successful practices of their own. Countless residences, schools, churches and prominent buildings in Anchorage and many other Alaska communities, rural and urban, are Ed Crittenden designs. Among them, in Anchorage, are the Captain Cook Hotel, the now-Conoco Phillips Building, the Egan Convention Center and many parts of Providence Hospital. Ed's firm was responsible for developing the first UAA campus Master Plan, which included the "spine" concept to eventually connect all the buildings on campus. He also designed the original Consortium Library, the old sports complex and the Theatre and Fine Arts Building. Ed's work included many elementary, junior high and high schools as well, particularly in Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su Valley. In 1963, Ed took a sabbatical from his practice and moved his family to Helsinki, Finland, for a year, where he studied northern design, particularly the work of Alvar Aalto and Ralph Erskine. In 2012, Ed received the Kumin Award from the Alaska AIA fellows for his contributions to the theory and practice of northern architecture. Ed also had a long history of involvement with the American Institute of Architects, having co-founded AIA Alaska in 1961 and twice served as the organization's president. In 1979, he became Alaska's first AlA Fellow and, in 1981, he was the first Alaskan to be elected Northwest and Pacific Regional Director. He also served on the National Advisory Board's Committee on Architecture for Education. In 2009, Ed was awarded the AIA Northwest and Pacific Region's Medal of Honor and, in 2010, he received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from UAA. Ed retired from his architecture practice in 1986, although the firm remains active as Architects Alaska, with his son John as one of the principals. He and Kit then spent four years in Sitka, where he was the campus architect for Sheldon Jackson College and where he took up painting watercolors. They returned to Anchorage in 1990, and Ed continued to be active in the arts, architecture and painting. Ed's love for the beauty of nature was reflected not only in his design work and his paintings, but in his lifelong love for sailing. For many years he and Kit took their children and grandchildren on voyages in and around the Puget Sound area as well as up and down the Inside Passage in Ed's beloved sailboat, the Stormbird. Ed was predeceased by his parents; four siblings, Ben, Abe, Eunie and Lyman; and, in 2010, by his wife, Kit. He moved into the Anchorage Pioneer Home in 2011, where he continued his artistic pursuits until close to the time of his own death. He is survived by his six children, Katie, John (Robin Warren), Jim (Mollie Doran), Elizabeth (Oscar Palacios), Davis (Lanie Balandel) and Harriet (Mike LaMair); 11 grandchildren, Clayton Olander (Hannah Ackerman), Karen Crittenden Nijem (George), Anna Crittenden (Charles Lamy), Emily Crittenden Gros (Sacha), Aurora Alexander, Carson Coulon (Dajana Siebert), Mara and Eva Perrigo and Edwin, Davis and Kate LaMair; nine great-grandchildren, Addison Olander, Georgie and Fiona Nijem, Guillaume Lamy, Remi and Gage Gros and Lucca, Leonie and Liam Coulon; and a multitude of nieces and nephews in Anchorage and throughout the "Lower 48" as well as Australia and The Netherlands. A memorial service for Ed will take place at First Presbyterian Church, the church in which he, Kit, and their family worshiped, on the corner of 10th Ave. and G Street, this Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to the Oscar Anderson house.
Published in Anchorage Daily News on Jan. 14, 2015.
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