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Kemper Goodwin

Kemper Goodwin, Architect [1906-1997]

Kemper Goodwin [†] was born in Tempe, Arizona in 1906, the son of Garfield Goodwin, a Tempe businessman who had been a star athlete at Tempe Normal School (now known as Arizona State University) and in his later years served on the school's governing board when it was named Arizona State Teachers College.

Kemper Goodwin attended Tempe High School but left before graduating, going to California to study drafting at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach. After completing high school there in 1924, he entered the architecture program at the University of Southern California. In 1928 he returned to Tempe without a degree—he had only been interested in the architecture courses—and sought work as an architect. Soon he was hired by the firm of Lescher and Mahoney, which was then one of Phoenix's leading design firms, and he had earned his Arizona architect's license by 1931.

The Depression eventually cost him his job, however, and Goodwin took to the road as an itinerant architect. Traveling from town to town in New Mexico, Texas, and parts of the South, Goodwin worked for nearly eighty-five firms, earning between $4 and $7 per week. He eventually settled in El Paso, where he joined a firm headed by Percy McGhee and, in 1934, married McGhee's daughter Mickey.

In 1935 Goodwin returned to Arizona to work once again for Lescher and Mahoney—a job he later surmised was given him because his father was then on the Arizona State Teachers College board, and the architectural firm wanted to be in a good position to get work on the WPA and WWA-financed building jobs that were expected to take place on the campus. After working for Lescher and Mahoney for seven years, during which he helped design several ASTC buildings including the Moeur Building, Goodwin was offered a job at the college. Reluctant to see him leave their firm, Royal Lescher and Les Mahoney offered to keep Goodwin on their payroll and let him work full-time on projects at Arizona State, an arrangement that continued until he finally did leave the firm in 1942.

Immediately after leaving Lescher and Mahoney, Goodwin signed on with Del Webb's construction company, with Williams Field as his first project. He remained with Webb until 1944, when he left to take a position with Womack Construction. In April 1945 he hung out his own shingle as an architect, opening an office in Tempe in what he called the "Dog House," a small outbuilding situated behind his house at 111 E. 5th Street.

Goodwin remained in practice in Tempe for thirty years, until his retirement in 1975. His son Michael joined the firm in 1967, and at its peak the firm—known as Michael & Kemper Goodwin Architecture—had forty employees. Kemper served several terms on the Tempe City Council (1936-38 and 1948-54) and was at one time president of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. He also chaired the Arizona Association of Architects and was a member of the Arizona State Board of Certification for Architects. He died on 24 December 1997.

During his career Goodwin was known primarily for his public buildings, and in particular for the many buildings he designed for Arizona State College (later Arizona State University) and for local school districts in the Salt River Valley and elsewhere in Arizona (more than two hundred school buildings by one count). His designs, which tended to reflect the styles that were dominant at the time, ranged from Neo-Classical (West Hall at ASU) to modern (Salt River Project Building in Phoenix).

Goodwin's impact on the built environment of Tempe was substantial. He designed or helped design such Arizona State University landmarks as West Hall (1936), Moeur Building (1938), Lyceum Theater, Memorial Union (1956), Wilson Hall, Life Sciences Building, and Physical Sciences Building. Two other campus projects, the Language and Literature Building and Mathematics Building, were done jointly with his son Michael.

Elsewhere in the Tempe area he designed the Tempe Woman's Club (1936), which is now listed on the National Register; Tempe High School (1956); and the Salt River Project headquarters located near the border of Tempe and Phoenix (1968). He also designed many homes in the Tempe area. The Selleh House, which was built while he was still working for Lescher and Mahoney, appears to be one of his earliest residential designs in the city.

† Mark E. Pry, Southwest Historical Services, Selleh House, Maricopa County, AZ, nomination document, 2005, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.