The Hollywood set designer, artist and architect who led the effort to camouflage the Boeing airplane factory during World War II has died...
SEATTLE — The Hollywood set designer, artist and architect who led the effort to camouflage the Boeing airplane factory during World War II has died from lung cancer.
John Stewart Detlie died Wednesday in Westlake Village, Calif., a few weeks before his 97th birthday. He left the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s after designing a number of landmark Seattle buildings, including Children’s Orthopedic Hospital (known today as Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center), several University of Washington buildings and Temple De Hirsch.
Mr. Detlie and his wife of 59 years, Virginia, left Seattle after their 3-year-old son, Christopher, drowned. Mr. Detlie went on to become a noted architect in Los Angeles, Baltimore and Honolulu before retiring near Palm Springs 30 years ago. Mr. Detlie, who designed many churches and other religious buildings, wrote and lectured on religious architecture.
Born in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1908, he earned architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1932 and 1933. After graduation, he moved to Hollywood to work in the movie industry. In 1940, he was nominated for an Oscar for his work as production designer on the film “Bitter Sweet.” Among his art-director credits were “A Christmas Carol” and “Captains Courageous.”
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Mr. Detlie, whose first wife was movie star Veronica Lake, left Hollywood’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in 1942 to manage the camouflage project as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers.
To confuse enemy bombers, Boeing Aircraft camouflaged nearly 26 acres of the Seattle plant where the B-17 and the B-29 were built.
Boeing’s Plant 2 was covered with a three-dimensional wire, plywood and canvas structure that was made to look like a town, including trees, houses and schools, instead of a wartime airplane factory.
After the war, Mr. Detlie joined the architecture firm that hired him to do the camouflage project and eventually became a partner.
Besides designing Children’s Hospital, Mr. Detlie painted the fairy-tale mural in the outpatient area. Virginia Detlie said the mural was destroyed when the hospital was remodeled, but she still has the original painting on which it was based.
He was also known for his watercolor paintings and had one-man shows at several museums, including the Seattle Art Museum.
“He was an amazing man,” Virginia Detlie said Friday. “He accomplished so much.”
Mr. Detlie was also a pioneer in the Seattle arts movement in the 1950s, retired newspaperman Lou Guzzo said. He was a member of the Beer & Culture Society, a small group of academics, architects and artists who later formed Allied Arts of Seattle.
He was the first president of this advocacy group for urban design and the arts. The group pressured the Seattle City Council to create a Municipal Arts Commission, which laid the groundwork for building Seattle Center and hosting the 1962 World’s Fair.
In addition to Virginia Detlie, Mr. Detlie is survived by two children from his second marriage, Holly Allarcon and John Stewart Detlie Jr., who both live in California, as well as a daughter from his first marriage, Ani Sangge Lhamo, who lives in New Zealand.