Born in Emmetsburg, Iowa on Sept 1, 1879, Leon P B Larson was one of many so-called architect/builders who practiced in Washington State during the early part of the 20th century. Having reached a level of an 8th grade education, Larson had no formal training as an architect, but advertised himself as such for several years in Walla Walla. The State did not begin to regulate who could officially call themselves architects until 1919.
His dad, Henry was a farmer by trade, and moved the family to Walla Walla in 1880. Leon grew up on the farm and worked as a farm laborer until the age of 25 when local cities directories note that he was a carpenter. Like many builders of the day, he had higher aspirations and began to bill himself as an architect by 1909. He continued to advertise his architectural services in Polk directories until 1914. Despite his claimed profession, the only verified project by Larson is a home at 555 Locust Street in Walla Walla, where he was issued a building permit by local inspector William Metz in 1909.
For reasons unknown, by 1915 Larson moved his family to Umapine, Oregon and returned to life as a farmer at the age of 35. By the mid 1930s he returned to the construction trades (as a builder), however no projects in Umatilla County have been associated with him. The family remained in Umapine until early 1942 when they moved back to Walla Walla. During the war years Larson worked at the local Air Base and was officially employed by the Defense Construction Company.
Larson died in Walla Walla on June 29, 1947 at the age of 67 and is buried at the Mountain View Cemetery.
By Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian – May 2021