320 West Kinnear Place: Matzen Residence

posted by author Jan Hadley
The Matzen residence at 320 West Kinnear Place was constructed in 1910 – 1911.  George Matzen was the owner and president of Matzen Manufacturing Company, a clothing manufacturer in Pioneer Square.  He and his wife Irene occupied the house on the south slope of Queen Anne from 1910 until sometime in the 1930s. 

The house was designed in 1909 by Willatsen and Byrne in the Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright.  The design includes a hip roof, deeply overhanging eaves, stucco cladding, and strong horizontal lines reinforced on each floor by bands of windows.  Its abbreviated cruciform plan is well adapted to the narrow sloping lot. The porch at the front of the house was enclosed in the late teens.  In 1965, aluminum windows frames replaced the early wooden enclosures.  A center picture window enclosed the porch completely.  In 1998, the porch was restored to its original open design of 1910.

The architectural firm of Willatsen and Byrne was founded by two former apprentices and “members” (as Wright referred to them in his 1908 manifesto “In the Cause of Architecture”) of the Frank Lloyd Wright studio in Oak Park, Illinois.  Andrew Willatsen (originally ‘Willatzen”) was born in Germany in 1876 and came to the United States in 1900.  After work as a carpenter and draftsman, he joined the Oak Park studio in 1902.  His accomplishments at the studio include work on the 1905 redesign of the lobby of the Rookery Building in Chicago, and work on the Darwin Martin House (1904; restored 1996) and the fence of the Larkin Building (1904; demolished 1950), both in Buffalo, New York.  Francis Barry Byrne, called “Frank” by Wright, was born in Chicago in 1883.  He also joined the Oak Park studio in 1902 where he became acquainted with Willatsen.  Byrne, with William Drummond, Marion Mahoney, and Walter Burley Griffin, and was one of the members whom Wright entrusted to take his sketches to drawings and to complete construction.  Byrne is credited (sometimes referred to as the “architect of note”) with work on the Beachy House and Unity Temple, both in Oak Park, Illinois; the Tomak House and the Coonley House, both in Riverside, Illinois; and the Boynton House in Rochester, New York.

During 1908 and 1909, Willatsen and Byrne left the Oak Park studio and settled in Seattle where they formed a partnership.  During the next five years, they designed more than 50 residences and commercial buildings in the Seattle area, many in the Prairie style.

Upon dissolution of their partnership in 1913, Willatsen remained in Seattle and continued to design homes in the Prairie style.  When the popularity of this style waned, he utilized a wide variety of styles.  From 1915 until the 1960s, he was the architect for general alterations to the Pike Place Market.  Before his death in 1974 at age 97, Willatsen donated his papers, drawings, furniture, and the art glass windows he designed in 1915 to the University of Washington.  These magnificent windows are installed in the Architecture Library in Gould Hall, and Willatsen’s table and chairs can be found in the university’s branch campus at the Palazzo Pio in Rome, Italy.  Byrne returned to Chicago in 1914 where, in solo practice, he entered into a long association with the Roman Catholic Church, designing schools and churches in Chicago and elsewhere until his death in 1967.

The exquisite interiors of the Matzen residence have been preserved and restored to their original design with great care and attention to detail by its current owners, Tim Mar and Eliza Ward.  The interiors are reputed to be the finest created by Willatsen and Byrne.  Three original light fixtures remained when the house was purchased in 1995 and were used to create 19 reproductions installed throughout the house.  The Russian white oak floors and extensive Prairie-style fir trim have been restored or re-created to the original bees wax finish.  The original Roman brick fireplace in the living room and Grueby tiled fireplace in the master bedroom remain, and reproductions of Wright-designed furniture add to the gracious ambiance.  Restoration was completed in conformity with the Willatsen and Byrne architectural drawings and technical specifications obtained from the archives of the University of Washington.

Photo Credit: Candi Kintzley @ Clarity NW Photography, LLC