Benjamin McAdoo holds the distinction of being the first Black architect to open a firm in the city of Seattle, and is also is the first Black architect in Washington state.
McAdoo was born on October 28, 1920 in Pasadena, Calif. He began his education in architecture at the University of Southern California, but transferred to the University of Washington to complete his studies while working in the day and attending classes at night.
McAdoo’s career began working on small community projects and building renovations, but it was his work on private residences that drew the most attention.
Local outlet The Seattle Times featured McAdoo’s work, which raised his profile nationally. From there, McAdoo discovered a passion for developing low-income housing, eventually taking a position with the U.S. Agency on International Development (AID) to develop housing in Jamaica. He brought the concept of modular housing, which could be easily assembled by unskilled workers, to Jamaica and other developing nations while working with AID in the ’60’s.
McAdoo was also a champion of civil rights, serving at the president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP and hosting weekly radio shows that focused on issues affecting Seattle’s Black community. According to accounts, McAdoo worked briefly in Washington, D.C. before returning to Seattle, working up until his death in 1981.
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