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Male, born 1862-09-10, died 1933-09-08

Associated with the firms network

Hanson, Olof, Architect; Schack, James H., Architect; Thayer and Hanson, Architects

Professional History


Hanson's first work in an architectural office occurred in Milwaukee, WI. The father of his college roommate, William Drew Washburn, Sr., (1831-1912), a US Senator from MN, arranged for Olof to find employment in this office. (See Gallaudet University, “Visionary Leader—April 2014 Olof Hanson,” accessed 06/11/2016.)

Draftsman, E. Townshend Mix, Architect, Minneapolis, MN.

Draftsman, I.H. Hodgson and Sons, Minneapolis, MN, and Omaha, NB, -1889.

Draftsman, Wilson Brothers and Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1890-1891; the Wilson Brothers designed a 70-acre campus for the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Mount Airy, PA, at the time Hanson worked there. Following this experience, the 1893 Depression stymied most construction across the US; Hanson returned to teach at the Minnesota Institute for the Deaf from 1893 until 1895.

Principal, Olof Hanson, Architect, Faribault, MN, 1895-1901.

Partner, [Frank] Thayer and Hanson, Architects, Mankato, MN, 1901-1904. According to his obituary, “When his firm [Thayer and Hanson] was commissioned to execute plans for a government building in Juneau, Alaska, he came to Seattle.” (See Last Rites for Olof Hanson To Be Held Monday,” Seattle Times, 09/10/1933, p. 11.) The Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota has stated that Thayer and Hanson closed their MN practice after obtaining the AK commission: "On the strength of obtaining the commission for the Court House and Jail in Juneau, Alaska (1901), Thayer and Hanson closed their Mankato office in 1902 and moved to Seattle to be nearer the project. They afterward received other work in Alaska and Seattle, but the partnership ended about 1903 and each continued in practice alone." (See University of Minnesota Library, Northwest Architectural Archives, Manuscripts Division, “Frank Thayer Collection,” accessed 06/11/2016.) The Seattle City Directory of 1902 (p. 605) indicated that a local office of Thayer and Hanson had been set up in Room A of the Pacific Building. This was the only year that a branch office of Thayer and Hanson existed in Seattle, because in 1903, Hanson was listed in the city directory (p. 579) as working in the office of the architect Max Umbrecht. (The Polk's Seattle City Directory, 1904, [p. 498] also indicated that he worked with Umbrecht.) Architectural Designer, Max Umbrecht, Architect, Seattle, WA, 1903-1904.

Principal, Olof Hanson, Architect, Seattle, WA, c. 1904-1917. He leased Office #50 in Seattle's Downs Building in 1913.

Periodic Draftsman, James H. Schack, Architect, Seattle, WA, 1906-1911. James Schack (1871-1933) also practiced in the Downs Building between 1905 and 1912.

Draftsman, University of Washington (UW), Department of Buildings and Grounds, Seattle, WA, 1919-1931.


Teacher, Minnesota Institute for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, Faribault, MN, c. 1893-1895.

Professional Activities

According to Anderson, Dietz and Ochsner, "Olof Hanson," Shaping Seattle Architecture, Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, editor, (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1994, p. 96-97), Hanson set up his own practice in Faribault, MN and was responsible for "...over forty buildings, including houses, business blocks, schools and a church..." there. Associate Member, American Institute of Architects (AIA), and Member, AIA Washington State Chapter, from at least 1910-until his death.

Professional Awards

Honorary Doctor of Science, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, 1914. (See Gallaudet University, “Visionary Leader—April 2014 Olof Hanson,” accessed 06/11/2016.)


Hanson's papers were donated to the University Archives, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC; some of his papers are also lodged at the Rice County Historical Society, Faribault, MN, where Hanson went to school; there is also some other archival information on Hanson at the Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. The University of Washington, Seattle, Libraries, Department of Special Collections, has material on Hanson related to his work in the UW Department of Buildings and Grounds; these include a drawing of Steam lines on campus, 1929, University of Washington, revised to Jan. 1931 and July 1931.


High School/College

Graduate, Minnesota Institute for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, (established 1863, renamed in 1986 the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf), Faribault, MN, 1878-1881; B.A., Gallaudet College, Washington, DC, 1886; M.A., Gallaudet College, Washington, DC, 1889. At Gallaudet, Hanson roomed with Cadwallader Lincoln Washburn (1866-1965), who became a well-known artist executing drypoint etchings and oil and watercolor paintings.(See Gallaudet University, “Visionary Leader—April 2014 Olof Hanson,” accessed 06/11/2016.)

After graduation from Gallaudet in 1889, Hanson embarked on a grand tour of Europe for 10 months, seeing England, Scotland, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Italy. He came back to the US via New York City in 07/1890.

Special Student, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France, 1889-1890.

College Awards

According to the Gallaudet web site, "Hanson was active in sports, mastered Latin, French, and German, and served as valedictorian for his graduating class." (See Gallaudet University, “Visionary Leader—April 2014 Olof Hanson,” accessed 06/11/2016.)



Born in Fjälkinge, on the southern tip of Sweden, Hanson was born to a family of farmers, the youngest of three children. Olof first went deaf in one ear at age 11 in Sweden, and lost hearing in his other ear two years later. It was at this time, 1875, that the family migrated to the US, operating a farm near Willmar, MN. Hanson had been naturalized in 1886.

When first married, Olaf and Agatha Hanson lived at 4th Avenue West in Faribault City, MN, in 1900; they lived with a boarder, Edith Vandegrift, a teacher, in their house.

As a result of a commission for a building being designed by Theyer and Hanson in Juneau, AK, Olof Hanson relocated an office of the firm to Seattle in 1902. He resided at 1127 17th Avenue with his wife and daughter. (See Seattle City Directory, 1902, p. 605.) In 1904, he and his family lived in a house at 4718 Brooklyn Avenue in the city's expanding University District. (See Polk's Seattle City Directory, 1904, p. 498.) By 1910, the family had expanded to three children and lived at 545 Brooklyn Avenue, Seattle, WA, according to the US Census of that year.

Apparently, Hanson moved back to the Midwest in c. 1917-1918, working as a draftsman in Saint Paul, MN, and Omaha, NB. Hanson returned to Seattle in 11/1918. His family lived at 4747 16th Avenue NE from at least 1913 until after 1930; the value of the Hanson residence was $10,000 in 1930, according to the U.S. Census.

Hanson died at his house near the University of Washington, 4747 16th Avenue NE, at age 71.


Olaf Hanson's parents came from Sweden. His father, Hans Larsson Hanson (d. 1874), occupied an influential place in their small Swedish hometown. He owned a farm, held a county government job and assisted the railroad in establishing track in the area. On the eve of relocating to a farm near Willmar, MN, Hans died. This delayed the family's resettlement to MN until 1875; just after settling in America, Olof lost his hearing. His mother was Nilla Rasmusdotter, who maintained the household.


Olof Hanson married Agatha J. Tiegel (1873-1959) 07/03/1899; (Sources on the date of her birth disagree, with some indicating it to have been in 1872, 1873 and 1878. 1873 appears to have been the correct date.) Her father was from Germany and her mother from Switzerland or PA, the U.S. Census data disagrees. Hanson met Tiegel at the Minnesota Institute for Defectives (this was the unfortunate name of the institution between 1887-1902), where she was a deaf teacher. Agatha Tiegel was the first female graduate of Gallaudet University with a B.A. in 1893, and was Valedictorian of her class. She was a poet and teacher of note, whose papers, like those of her husband's were donated to Gallaudet, comprising the "Agatha Tiegel Hanson Collection" of 4,000 items.


The Hansons had three daughters: Marion F. Hanson Martin (born c. 1901 in MN), Alice C. Hanson Jones (born c. 1905 in WA) and Helen Hanson Bass (born c. 1907 in WA). At his death in 1933, Marion resided in Oakland, CA, Helen in Seattle, and Alice in Chicago.

Biographical Notes

A childhood illness at age 10 left Hanson deaf; he has been credited by some as America's first deaf architect. (See "Discover Owatonna's Place in History," brochure, accessed 05/30/2008.) Hanson became very influential within the deaf community across the US, training at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, a center for deaf advocacy in America. While in the nation's capital, he began efforts at changing laws discriminatory to the deaf. His obituary in the Seattle Times stated: “During his life Mr. Hanson was an untiring worker to assist deaf persons less fortunate than himself. As a result of his request to President Theodore Roosevelt, deaf persons were admitted to civil service examinations.” (See "Last Rites for Olof Hanson To Be Held Monday,” Seattle Times, 09/10/1933, p. 11.) Gallaudet recognized Hanson's remarkable advocacy work by awarding him an honorary Doctor of Science later in his life.

Hanson became member of the World Federation of the Deaf, the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, and the Puget Sound Association of the Deaf. He worked for deaf rights wherever he lived, including in MN, where he resided until 1902. The address of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, where Hanson taught during the early 1890s, was renamed by Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1988, "615 Olof Hanson Drive." (See Harry G. Lang, Bonnie Meath-Lang, Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary, [Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1995], p. 174.) His pinnacle of influence as an advocate came between 1910 and 1913, when became President of the National Association of the Deaf.

He maintained friendships with other deaf cultural leaders in the United States, including the sculptor Douglas Tilden (1860-1935). The Seattle Times noted in its 08/07/1907 issue that Tilden had come to the city, and was a guest of Hanson. "Douglas Tilden, one of the greatest American sculptors and one the most famous deaf mutes in the world, arrived this morning from New York, and is a guest of Olof Hanson, the architect, of this city. Tilden studied abroad many years but the principal scene of his labors has been at San Francisco, in the municipal improvements of which he has done numerous works, and the most notable ones, namely the Fountain of Mechanics, the Native Sons’ Monument and the California Volunteers Memorial adorn Market Street of that city. They were almost the only structures in the burned district that escaped the ravage of the earthquake and fire. He also designed the Oregon Volunteers Monument at Portland, which was unveiled about a year ago.” The article also noted that Tilden had been a Professor of Sculpture at the University of California, Berkeley, where John Galen Howard (1864-1931), the Supervising Architect of Seattle’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, headed the architecture department. (See Douglas Tilden in Seattle,” Seattle Times, 08/07/1907, p. 8.)

In 1909, Hanson started a Bible class for deaf children at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Seattle, WA; religion developed into an increasing interest to Hanson; in 1924, he was ordained as an Episcopalian deacon in 03/1924 and a minister in 1929. At his death, he was one of 28 deaf Episcopalian ministers in the US.

The U.S. Census of 1930 indicated that Hanson worked as an "architectural draftsman." Member, Swedish Club, Seattle, WA.

Associated Locations

  • Fjalkinge, Sweden (Architect's Birth)
    Fjalkinge, Sweden

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  • Seattle, WA (Architect's Death)
    Seattle, WA

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PCAD id: 3222