Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools

Designers: Josenhans and Allan, Architects (firm); Norris Best Allan (architect); Timotheus Anton Christof Josenhans (architect)

Dates: constructed 1911-1911 1913

2 stories

Cedar Falls, WA


In 1915, the Supreme Court of Washington rendered a verdict affirming that architect Timotheus Josenhans was guilty of negiligence in the preparation of plans and superintendence of a new school house built in 1911 for the town of Cedar Falls, WA. The second floor of the school collapsed under a heavy snow load in 1913, leaving the second floor ruined, but with no loss of life.

Building History

The Seattle architectural tandem of Timotheus Josenhans (1853-1929) and Norris B. Allan contracted with officials of the Cedar Falls School District in 1911 to build a new school for the town. The American Architect and Architecture reported on the school's 1913 collapse and the resulting court case in its issue of 07/12/1916: "Some time in the summer of 1911, appellants, architects in the city of Seattle, entered into an oral contract with the directors of the respondent school district to draw the plans for a two-story frame schoolhouse to be erected at Cedar Falls, to receive bids and award the contract for the construction thereof, and to exercise a certain supervision over the work, the exact nature of which is in dispute. For drawing the plans they were to receive 3 per cent of the contract price of the building, for receiving bids and awarding the contract one-half of 1 per cent, and for making inspection $10 and expenses for each trip. The plans were drawn in August 1911, the contract awarded on September 7, and the building completed with the exception of the finishing of the second story which the contract provided was to be roughed in only, some time between Nov. 20 and 23, 1911. On the evening of Jan. 13, 1913, the upper story of the building collapsed under the weight of snow which had accumulated on the roof, leaving the first story standing practically unharmed, except for some damage to the plastering. Soon after the collapse, the directors built a temporary roof over the remaining first story, and commenced this action to recover from the appellants damages for the failure of the building, alleging that the collapse was due wholly to the negligence of appellants' architects in the preparation of the plans and superintending the construction of the building--the specific charge being that the plans and specifications did not provide for, and the building did not have when complete, a roof sufficiently strong to carry the load which it should reasonably have been foreseen it would be obliged to carry. The trial court found that the negligence of the appellants was the cause of the collapse, and awarded damages of $1,100. The supreme Court affirmed the judgement, saying that the record of the case disclosed the fact that there had been negligence in the preparation of the plans and in superintending the work. (School Dist. No. 172 v. Josenhans, 153 Pac. 326.)" (See "Judgment Against Architecs Affirmed," American Architect and Architecture, vol. CX, no. 2116, 07/12/1916, p. 31.)

This case did not seem to affect Josenhans's reputation, as Mayor George Cotterill appointed him as Seattle's Superintendent of Buildings on 02/02/1914, and he was reappointed twice by the succeeding Mayor Hiram Gill in 1914 and 1917. (See "Josenhans Will Be Reappointed," Seattle Daily Times, 04/08/1917, p. 28.)

PCAD id: 21920