Architect C. Ferris White was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 22, 1867. White studied architecture in Chicago and rose to the position of head draftsman for the office of W.W. Meyers. Other work experience included stints at the office of Sprague & Newell and with W.W. Clay.
Reportedly in 1890, he came to Spokane under a contact to work for architect Herman Preusse, however within a month he left the office and began working for architect Chauncey B. Seaton. Some studies indicate that White formed a partnership with Seaton, but Polk Directories do not verify this. Instead he was employed by Seaton as a draftsman and then oversaw a branch office for Seaton in Bellingham.
In 1895, White moved to Everett and opened a short-lived practice with architect William T. Moller.
White then returned to Spokane in 1896 and again became associated with Chauncey B. Seaton. After Seaton passed away suddenly, White formed a partnership with architect Charles A. Alexander in 1897. Alexander passed away suddenly and White formed a new partnership with architect Arthur E. Permain in 1898. They were joined by engineer John W. Strack and architect Oscar Huber, but they left the firm to work for the railroad in 1899 and White continued the practice alone until 1904.
Reportedly that year he left Spokane taking his ill wife to California and leaving his practice in the capable hands of architect Alfred Jones. Then in 1905 White formed yet another partnership, this time with architect W.W. Hyslop. That partnershpi lasted for only a year and White remained in private practice. In 1912 he moved his practice to Wenatchee. But by 1915 he had relocated to Spokane and took on another partner, Rowland J. Englebry for a two-year period (1915 to 1917).
During his career, White was one of the most prolific architects in the Inland Empire area, reportedly preparing plans for over eleven-hundred buildings. His designs range in style and type from homes of prominent businessmen, to working class apartment complexes, as well as several important commercial buildings.
Known projects include the Transient Hotel (1904); the Sorrento Apartments (1911); a school in Waterville (1912) and several architecturally prominent homes such as the George Wooster House (1907); the Frank Graves House (1906); the Waldo Paine House (1905); the Kendrick House (1911); the E.F. Hayes House (1910); and the Bleecker House (1909).
In 1905, White received his largest commission. He was hired by the Potlatch Lumber Company as architect for the entire company town of Potlatch, Idaho where he designed and erected more than 300 buildings, which included commercial properties, residences, a hotel, theater, warehouses, schools, churches, and a railroad depot. Author N. W. Durham writes that White had contract work in 1905 that amounted to a half-a-million dollars.
For reasons unknown, in 1923 White left Spokane and moved to Everett, where he continued his architectural career until his death. White’s projects in Everett include the Labor Temple (1929); the Sevenich House (1930); and a mortuary at Pacific & Wetmore Avenues (1932).
Like many architects, White was involved in a variety of social and professional organizations throughout his career. He was a member of the Elks Club, the Spokane Athletic Club and the Inland and Coeur d’Alene Boat Clubs, and was an active member of the Republican Party serving as a Snohomish County delegate. White was also a founding member of the Spokane Architectural Club (forerunner of the AIA), serving on the Board of Directors in 1912.
White passed away in Everett at the age of 61 in August 1932. His obituary noted that he had designed 63 different schools in Washington State.
By Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian - March 2012