Sunday, February 15, 2015


OLR Monastery

This is the last Blog on the history of Shaw.

HENRY KLEIN the architect who build the home that is now our monastery, passed away in 2013, in Mt. Vernon, the age of 92. He was born in 1920 in Cham (Bavaria), Germany to Fred and Hedwig (Weiskopf) Klein. He left Cham with his family at the age of 15 and moved to Switzerland where he continued his education before moving to the US.  He attended Hobart and Williams College in NY and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Architecture

His career was put on hold during the Second World War when he was stationed in India and the South Pacific with the Army Engineers. Following the war he returned to New York to start his career, but city life was not for him, so he moved to Portland, Oregon where he worked for Pietro Belluschi and also met his wife Phyllis Harvey.

In 1952 when Belluschi took the job to head the MIT School of Architecture, Henry and Phyllis packed up and moved to Mount Vernon, WA  where he opened his office and started his family.  At the time he was the first architect in Skagit County. He was fortunate enough to be welcomed by the early pioneer families in the valley and designed private residences for them before branching out to commercial buildings. Enter our future benefactor (another Henry) Ellis, who asked him to design a home for summer use for himself and guests. After the home was completed it was given to us but had to be "upgraded" to fit a monastery.

 The year the addition to our  now monastery was completed (1976) , Henry made two close associates, David Hall and Lowell Larsen, partners in the firm.

Home on Guemes Island
Henry did several local designs which still stand in our hearts and those of other islanders:  Museum of  Northwest Art in LaConnor, the Swinomish Tribal Community Hall, Orcas Island"s Library, and UW Marine Laboratory Commons building and dormitories on Friday Harbor,  the design of which was based on our new wing of monastery cells. In 1981 the firm was awarded the Louis Sullivan Award for Architecture, the first small firm to ever win the award as well as the only west coast firm at that time. Henry retired in 2004 after 52 years of practice. 

UW Labs at Friday Harbor

Henry was said to be a quiet, humble family man who loved the arts and nature, which is very evident in our home.  His work was his chosen expression of his citizenship. He and his wife had three sons.

In the past few years we have had several doctoral students from UW  (one from Germany) visit OLR to see Henry's first residential home in WA. We are proud that his legacy lives on in the studies of a new generation, especially from his native land.  The monastery Chapel, built in 1997, was based on a building of Henry's but burnt to the ground before we arrived on Shaw. We loved the Asian feel so decided to keep his plans.

OLR Chapel

A young Henry Klein

As we knew him

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