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Actually, Bill Campbell designed the Talisman

By August 26, 2022


For nearly ten years we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of who designed the Talisman, a 65-unit midcentury loft condo on First Hill.

Prior to 2013, many believed it was designed by Space Needle architect John Graham. Since 2013 we thought it was designed by Kieth Nissen, with more confirmation in 2016 that it was him, but we recently heard from Kieth’s wife, Anna, who said it wasn’t him, but actually a classmate of his, Bill Campbell!

Grant Jones (RIP) weaves a good story (as poets do) BUT as the Talisman was breaking ground in the spring of 1963, Kieth was finishing a Masters at Columbia and moving to live and work in Boston.  In the fall of 1964 we returned to Seattle and Kieth began work at Kirk, Wallace and McKinnley. It was not until Spring of 1966 that Kieth obtained his architectural license and joined forces with William Campbell as ENVIPA with offices in YES the Talisman and THEREAFTER did a lot of work for Garrett and Mulliken who also had offices there.  The match-up between seasoned developers and fresh talent ended with a VERY down market, but Kieth (and I) learned well the multifamily trade over those few short years.  Kieth split in 1971 to practice alone, until I split NBBJ to join him in 1977 til 2016 (his death).

Bill Campbell, our fellow classmate (true), designed the Talisman for Garrett and Mulliken (GM) plus Hammons. The clue to how they got a building permit without a licensed architect is right in the May 12,1963 ST article: licensed engineer’s stamp of  Donald Radcliffe — SEAW Hall of Fame  All the information in that article and the following August 2, 1964 article about the Talisman opening is correct.  Reporters did good work, back in the day. 

Grant was closer to Kieth than he was to Campbell, which likely explains his unawareness of Campbell’s outstanding accomplishment, I agree it was and still is outstanding.  Grant Jones – Wikipedia was himself away getting a Master’s and then traveling on scholarship as Kieth was getting licensed and starting a practice, so likely Grant just tangled memory around imagination until a fine tale popped out (as poets do)

Don’t get me wrong, Kieth was truly amazing and produced many unique and wonderful buildings and furnishings (some with his own hands)  but the Talisman’s not one of them. Campbell gets all the credit for that one.  When dead and gone, as all the parties are now, excepting me, accolades are left for the living to untangle and cherish.

I own and manage Urban Living, a boutique Seattle and Bellevue real estate brokerage. I love lofts, floating homes, new construction, and mid-century moderns, but I will help you buy or sell just about anything!

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