Hastings, L. Jane (b. 1928)

  • By Marga Rose Hancock
  • Posted 7/24/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9046

Architects around the world, and particularly women architects in Seattle and Washington, have long looked to L. Jane Hastings as an exemplar and professional leader -- and often the first to achieve key professional aspirations. She began her career studies in 1946 as the only female in her University of Washington architecture class of 200; and in 1953 became the eighth woman licensed as an architect in Washington since the state began licensing architects in 1923. Jane Hastings went on to become the principal of Washington’s oldest woman-owned architecture firm in 1959, an influential member of the International Union of Women Architects (UIFA) in its formative years, in 1975 the first woman president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Seattle Chapter, and in 1992 the first woman Chancellor of the AIA’s prestigious national honorary society, the College of Fellows. 

Born Into a Boys' Generation

Born March 3, 1928, in Seattle as the youngest child of Harry C. Hastings (1888-1966) and Amelia (known as Camille) Pugh Hastings (1897-1989), Lois Jane Hastings grew up as the only girl in an extended family that included her two older brothers, James Calvin Hastings (1924-1985) and Harry Arthur Hastings (1926-1961), and six older boy cousins.

Both of Hastings’s parents came from families with roots in the Midwest.  As a youth, Harry Hastings had migrated from Indiana to Colorado and then to Seattle with his family, working as a logger and later as a truck driver. Camille Hastings was born in Los Angeles and lost her father at an early age. She trained as a milliner, living on her own in Santa Rosa boarding houses before moving to Seattle, where she worked in millinery at Frederick & Nelson Department Store. 

Hastings recalls her childhood years:

“The rules in our house were that we three children were equal.  … If the sport was too dangerous for Jane, it was too dangerous for the boys. If the movie was too dirty for Jane, it was too dirty for the boys. We all go, or no one goes!  Besides my mother’s being fair, I’m sure she thought my attendance might temper the boys’ mischief, plus why would she want one whining kid at home when she could get all three of us out of the house?  There were only boys in our neighborhood so I played with them, and by boys’ rules.  I never complained, so I was accepted.  Therefore my policy was ‘If the boys can do it, so can I’” (Hastings conversations with Marga Rose Hancock).

Jane Hastings attended K-12 public schools in West Seattle, along with her brothers. She recalls the gender segregation of that time: “Girls and boys sat together in the classroom, but not in the lunchroom and certainly we didn’t mix on the play-ground. It was a boys’ generation. I usually played with the boys, since I didn’t have anybody else to play with.”  As a 6th grader at the very small Fauntleroy Elementary School, she organized a girls’ baseball team, with the approval of the school principal, so that the boys’ team would have someone to practice with -- but one teacher wanted to press morals charges against Hastings for this unconventional behavior of mixing boys and girls on the playing field (Hastings conversations with Marga Rose Hancock).

In the post-Depression era, Hastings worked, beginning at age 10, doing cooking, laundry, and other household chores for a neighbor who kept boarders. In her early teens she also babysat after school until midnight, and in the summers did hospital kitchen work in 12-hour shifts, pumped gas, and repaired tires at a local service station; sold bakery and yard goods in a department store; and wrote copy and set type in a Sears Roebuck print shop.  In her free time as a teenager and continuing through college, she pursued an active athletic life as a member of the YMCA in Fauntleroy, teaching swimming, life-guarding, and playing team sports.

Jane Hastings notes that “Among my friends, I had the only working mother. All the women in my family were skilled as seamstresses, tailors, artists, or milliners.  I grew up with the belief that women worked, so why not choose some occupation that you liked? I knew I would be a working woman in my adult life” (Hastings conversations with Marga Rose Hancock).

As Marsha King wrote in a 1990 Seattle Times article about career challenges facing Washington women architects: “In the early '40s, when she was an eighth-grader in West Seattle, Jane Hastings wrote about what she was going to be when she grew up. The composition prompted the teacher to keep her pupil after school. ‘I just don't want to see you hurt,’ the woman confided.  ‘They'll never let you be an architect.’ At that time, probably only two women were architects in the state. But it was too late to dissuade the girl. Not a doghouse was being built in her Fauntleroy neighborhood that Jane didn't visit every day on the way home from school. ‘I was fascinated by construction,’ she recalls" (Marsha King).

Becoming an Architect

Following her 1945 graduation from West Seattle High School, Hastings began architecture studies at the University of Washington as the only female in an entering class of 200 students. Throughout her student years, she continued to support herself by working in the Sears Roebuck mail-order department, doing bindery work at University of Washington Press, putting in six month’s full-time employment on a guided missile project at Boeing Airplane Co. and later (Summer1951 and part time during the 1951-1952 school year) in Boeing’s Plant Facilities department, and putting in weekends as a ski resort cashier.  

Hastings recalls that, as one of a very few women studying architecture, she refused to give up her place in the class when asked to defer to “our boys returning from service.”  Although no women served on the architecture faculty at that time, Hastings appreciated the support of Elizabeth Ayer (1897-1985), who as a then-recent UW graduate reached out to other women including those entering the field. Ayer invited Hastings and others to her home for tea, “actually a hearty lunch, which meant a lot to us hungry students” (Hastings conversations with Marga Rose Hancock).

Hastings received her Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1952, with honors including Tau Sigma Delta architecture honorary and the Alpha Rho Chi Medal leadership/service award. In 1953, she became an architect, the eighth woman to do so since the state began licensing architects in 1919. In the year following her graduation, she attended her first AIA national convention.  She continued her employment with the Boeing Airplane Co. as an architect in Plant Facilities, and then -- since she wanted to see the world -- she took a civilian job with the U.S. Army in Germany as Special Services Recreation Director 1954-1956.  She said, “The U.S. government at that time didn’t accept women as architects and engineers for most overseas posts.  We had the job of providing a home-like atmosphere and recreation for the troops, which apparently seemed like a good job for a woman architect, especially given my background with the YMCA” (Hastings conversations with Marga Rose Hancock).  Once abroad, she traveled extensively throughout Europe and made a foray into Northern Africa. 

Architectural Practice

Following her service and travels abroad, Hastings returned to Seattle and worked with architect Robert McDaniel in 1957-1958, with Leo A. Daly Architects & Engineers 1957-1958, and in 1956-1957 with James Chiarelli (1908-1990), Architect, whose projects included the Seattle Opera House and the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus. She began her independent practice in 1959, working part-time with the firm of Tucker & Shields Architects as she pursued her own work on new residences and remodels, small offices, and apartment structures.

Beginning in 1961 she practiced as L. Jane Hastings, Architect in an office in Seattle’s University District. There she employed other notable women architects including Carolyn Geise and Cynthia Richardson -- each of whom went on to establish her own independent practice. Seeking a large jail project, Hastings partnered with Carolyn Geise, Elaine Day LaTourelle, Lottie Eskilsson, and others to forge an all-woman team, "Architecta," comprising women with skills in architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, and interior design. Although their proposals got positive response, they didn’t win the sought-after projects. 

Hastings later noted that her firms employed a number of women but also men, notable among them Rick Sundberg (later a founding partner of the Seattle-based Olson Sundberg firm), and her former student Norman Millar (later professor and director of Woodbury School of Architecture, in Los Angeles).  

Projects and Designs

For a time, Hastings shared office space with architect Arne Bystrom (b. 1927) near the original REI store on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The Hastings Group, Architects operated from 1974 through 1995 in streetfront offices at 1516 E Olive Way, producing designs for more than 500 residential projects as well as church additions, small commercial projects, university buildings, airport alterations at Sea-Tac, I-90 bridge/tunnel facilities, and other bridge work, and historic restoration of a Tulalip Indian tribal building in 1976. 

In 1979, the Hastings firm oversaw the restoration of the historic structure on the University of Washington campus originally built for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and variously known as the Women’s Building, Johnson Annex B, and Imogen Cunningham Hall. In 1983, she teamed with structural engineer Victor O. Gray, landscape architect Richard Haag (b. 1923), and sculptor George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) to design the Flaming Geyser Bridge for King County Department of Public Works, constructed several years later at Flaming Geyser Recreation Area and recipient of several national awards in concrete construction and in bridge design.

Homes of the Month and Other Accolades

In 1968, The Seattle Times selected Hastings’s design for the Quam Residence as the Home of the Month annual award; and in 1973 it selected the Stevens Residence. Indeed, during the years 1962 to 1984, the Times featured 10 Hastings-designed residences as Homes of the Month; a total of 30 Hastings-designed residences appeared in Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer pictorial sections from 1963 to 1996. In 1971 the Karrow Residence took a national award from the AIA in conjunction with House & Home magazine. In 1977, Hastings’s design for the N. Johnston Residence in Laurelhurst (where the couple resided until 1995) received an Honor Award from AIA Seattle.

An archival assessment of the import of her architectural achievement notes: “Hastings's concern for energy efficiency predates the energy crisis era of alarm and was evident when she was the architect for several solar homes and remodels.”  Referring to Hastings’s numerous residential projects around the Northwest, the report continues, “She has dealt successfully with the environmental factors and severe climates of sites as diverse as Kodiak, Alaska, cascade ski areas, and beaches assailed by gale-force winds" (International Archive of Women in Architecture). 

Jane Hastings's tradition of quality architectural design has received local and national recognition with awards and publications spanning 30 years over two continents. House Beautiful, House and Garden, Sunset Magazine, The Seattle Times, The AIA Journal, Sunset Magazine, and Sunset Books, House and Horne, and Japanese publications have highlighted her projects” (University of Virginia Archives). 

In 1995, the Hastings firm moved to the Lloyd Building in downtown Seattle, where Hastings worked on her own before closing her practice in 2002.

Teaching and Community Service

In addition to her architectural practice, Jane Hastings administered and taught part-time from 1969 to 1980 at Seattle Community College’s Architectural Drafting Program and lectured in design studios at the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning.  She also served on the Council of Design Professionals in Seattle, on the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (1980-1983), on the Design and Construction Review Board for the Seattle schools, and as a charter member of Seattle’s City Club (1981-1986), and the Women’s University Club since 1988.   Membership in the Fashion Group (1958-1984) connected her with some of the most outstanding women of the time in a range of design fields, who together supported younger women entering the design professions.

Over several decades, she has addressed a range of audiences providing advice on architectural options and careers. She has made a number of TV appearances. 

Professional Leadership

Hastings’s work and leadership in professional organizations began soon after she joined the AIA in 1951, and while still a University of Washington student helped prepare for the AIA national Convention held in Seattle in 1953. Her tasks included silk-screening curtains for the Olympic Hotel, which served as Convention headquarters. In 1958 she co-chaired an AIA regional conference held in British Columbia. For several years she also chaired the Seattle Times/AIA Home of the Month program, a monthly feature of architect-designed homes that ran from 1954 to 2004.

AIA Seattle President Albert O. “Al” Bumgardner (1923-1987) asked Hastings to oversee the staffing of the AIA Pavilion, designed by architect/preservationist Victor Steinbrueck (1911-1985) at the 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair in Seattle.  She earned a service award for her six months of staffing and managing the AIA Pavilion, which informed the fair’s 10 million visitors about the architecture of Seattle.  She remained active as a member of the AIA Seattle Board of Directors from 1967 to 1970, and in 1975 became the organization’s first woman president.  Her colleagues elected her to represent the Northwest Region on the AIA’s national Board of Directors in 1982-1984, and she served an additional term in 1986. 

The AIA recognized Hastings’s contributions to the profession with her elevation to the prestigious College of Fellows in 1980. She went on to serve on the College’s Executive Committee and, in 1992, as its first woman Chancellor.

In 1969 Hastings joined the International Union of Women Architects (UIFA), which was founded in 1963, and convenes congresses around the world every three or four years. While attending her first UIFA Congress in Monaco, she met with Princess Grace. Hastings represented the United States as UIFA’s vice-president for a decade preceding her 1988 term as the organization’s Secretary General. She co-chaired the organization’s Congress held in Washington, D.C., in 1988.

Hastings's international portfolio also included her service with the American Women for International Understanding (AWIU) as a member of delegations of women doctors, lawyers, and other professionals visiting Israel, Egypt, and the USSR in 1971, and Japan and South Korea in 1979, with the intent of engaging women professionals, including architects, in the organization’s mission of professional advancement.  In 1983 the government of the Soviet Union invited Hastings and two other women to visit several Soviet cities on a professional-development mission. 

Home and Family

Hastings’s partner in many professional activities, University of Washington Architecture Professor Norman J. Johnston (b. 1918), became her husband in 1969.  After their marriage, the couple lived in a Fremont home originally built in 1891 and remodeled by Hastings. Subsequently they moved to a home designed by Hastings at 3905 NE Belvoir Place in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood, recognized by an AIA Seattle Honor Award in 1977. In 1995 they moved to an apartment at Seattle’s Horizon House, remodeled by Hastings and reviewed in Seattle Times Pacific Magazine (Kreisman).  Since 1997, Hastings and Johnston also spend family time on the Long Beach peninsula, at an Ocean Park beach home designed by Hastings on a lot she bought there in 1960. 

Together, Hastings and Johnston have traveled broadly on six continents, and “attended perhaps thousands of AIA meetings ... . From AIA activities locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, architects around the world know and admire Jane and Norm, and benefit from their wisdom, good humor, and knowledgeable ‘insider’ connections regarding significant events in the advancement of the architectural profession and the AIA spanning the second half of the 20th century” (AIA Region Medal).  

The AIA College of Fellows designated Hastings as the organization’s historian on completion of her 1992 term as Chancellor. Also in 1992, Hastings and Johnston co-authored a history and directory of the AIA College of Fellows, and assisted with an update published in 2000. 

Honors and Awards

Hastings’s achievements have received recognition within and beyond the architecture profession; and organizations including the AIA have honored her achievements: 

AIA Seattle Medal, 1995.  “Throughout the US and worldwide, she has offered encouragement and leadership to generations of architects, both women and men, by her influential example of hopeful engagement in professional affairs” (AIA Seattle Medal).  

AIA NW & Pacific Region Medal of Honor 2002, given for the first time.  “Jane Hastings ... has sustained an unusually active and extensive commitment to AIA, since her first involvement in 1953 when Seattle hosted the AIA Convention. Her accomplishments over more than four decades of AIA activism include major initiative in the development of AIA's international policies and programs -- especially through the AIA International Committee (1989-91) and her faithful attendance at international conferences such as those of the Paris-based International Union of Women Architects” ("AIA Region Medal of Honor ...").

Matrix Table Women of Achievement, 1994. Along with Senator Patty Murray and others ("Matrix Table Honors Women of Achievement"). 

Brava Award, 2008. Bestowed by the Women’s University Club.

A Mover and Shaker

Jane Hastings noted that her career as an architect "spans the time from when women weren’t allowed to do most things to a time when legislation requires our participation in most projects." She recalled a conversation in the late 1960s with Ruth "Truby" Mithun, the wife of noted Seattle architect Omer Mithun (1918-1983), who said to her, “You didn’t have to be liberated: You just came that way!”  

The architect's energy, knowledge, and positive outlook attract interest and draw others to share her enthusiasm and to join her in professional and other ventures.  She has influenced many individuals and helped shape the architecture profession in Seattle and throughout the state and around the world.


Marsha King, “Designing Women -- Female Architects In Washington Have Worked Hard To Build Their Careers,” The Seattle Times, September 16, 1990 (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/); Lawrence Kreisman, “Not Ready For Retirement -- They Made The `Final Move' While They Had The Energy To Do It Right,” The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest January 21, 1996 (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/); Marga Rose Hancock, “Region Medal of Honor 2002 to Jane Hastings,” August 2002, AIA Seattle website accessed June 2009  (https://www.aiaseattle.org/news_0208_hastingsmedal.htm ); “A Guide to the L. Jane Hastings Architectural Papers,” University of Virginia Archives website (http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaead/published/vt/viblbv00138.bioghist); Jennifer Gunter, "2003 Archivists Report, International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA), International Archive of Women in Architecture website accessed June 2009  (http://spec.lib.vt.edu/IAWA/Archivist/2003ar.pdf); "AIA Seattle Medalist 1995: Jane Hastings," AIA Seattle website accessed June 2009  (http://www.aiaseattle.org/archive_honors_medal95_hastings.htm); “Matrix Table Honors Women of Achievement,” The Seattle Times, Wednesday, April 20, 1994 (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Ayer, Elizabeth (1897-1987)" (by Heather M. MacIntosh) and " "Steinbrueck, Victor Eugene (1911-1985)," (by Heather M. MacIntosh), and "Tsutakawa, George (1910-1997)" (by By Deloris Tarzan Ament), http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed June 2009); "Hastings, L. Jane. Ms2004-004," International Archive of Women in Architecture, Virginia Tech ImageBase website accessed July 2009 (http://imagebase.lib.vt.edu/browse.php?folio_ID=/iawa/hastings); Marga Rose Hancock, Conversations with Jane Hastings 1975-2009.

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