Born in Varde, Denmark in 1888 and educated at the Chicago Institute of Fine Art, Henry C. Bertelsen came to Spokane in 1905 at the age of 17, where his father, a brick mason, found employment. After apprenticing briefly with architect Howard Hals, in 1909 Bertelsen began working as a draftsman for the prominent architectural firm of Cutter & Malmgren. His skill in delineation was quickly recognized and eventually he became responsible for managing the firm’s drafting room, and reportedly completed many of their final architectural drawings. Upon the death of Karl Malmgren in 1921, Cutter continued to employ Bertelsen as his assistant, but was unable to sustain paying his wages due to Spokane’s declining economy. When Cutter finally decided to leave Spokane for Santa Barbara in 1923, in lieu of back wages, Bertelsen, along with Cutter’s secretary, were left the contents of Cutter’s office.
As the air apparent to the Cutter & Malmgren firm, Bertelsen had no trouble finding work. Reportedly he designed more than 100 commercial and residential buildings in and around the Spokane area over the next 40+ years. Shortly after Cutter left, Bertelsen took on a partner, William A. Wells. He remained in partnership with the older and more experienced, Wells for about five years and received his architectural license (L16) in January of 1924.
Bertelsen’s designs range from small stores and auto dealerships, to large civic structures. His skill in working with terra cotta was well particularly well recognized. Notable designs include the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children (1924); Waitsburg High School (1927); National Guard Headquarters at Felts Field (1927); the United Hillyard Bank (1929); Lincoln School (1930); Mt. Spokane’s Vista House (1933); the Spokane Coliseum (1954); the Inland Automobile Association Building (1963); and several buildings at Gonzaga University.
Bertelsen’s romantic Tudor design for the William & Margaret Solby House at the base of Spokane’s south hill, received both local and nationwide press. Constructed as a model home, the house was showcased with a multi-page spread in the May 1927 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine.
Like many architects of the day, Bertelsen was active in variety of social and civic groups. Among them was the Rotary Club, the Spokane Club, Associated Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, the Press Club, the Athletic Round Table, American Legion, the Sons of Norway and the Inland Empire Automobile Association. He also served on the Salvation Army Advisory Board and the Fairmount Cemetery Board of Trustees. Bertelsen passed away in Spokane in August 23, 1963 at the age of 75. Many of his drawings and papers are housed at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC) in Spokane. The Bertelsen Collection includes 5 linear feet of materials from 1906 to 1968 including 150 sets of architectural drawings.