The book, A Guide to the Architecture of Metro Phoenix, published in 1983 included a small office building in central Phoenix that resonated with me. A very skilled hand was behind its design: architect John S. M. Hamilton, Jr. AIA. A few years later, I realized Hamilton had designed the Larson Residence in Paradise Valley. So it was my special treat these many years later to interview the 85-year-old architect.
Hamilton was born 1933 in Stanford, Connecticut and attended Forty Fort High School in northeastern Pennsylvania. He married J. Clair Singletary in 1957. They had three children before divorcing. Many years later, Hamilton married Sue Hamilton, who taught in the Madison School District; she passed away in 2010.
Hamilton was attracted to the University of Oklahoma as Bruce Goff was the chairman of the architecture department. Goff had worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, who “designed more organically” and “was different.” Hamilton received his architectural degree in 1959, and had the opportunity to meet Wright when he gave a presentation at the university.
After graduating, Hamilton joined P.E. Buchli Architects in Phoenix as their first employee in 1963. He was attracted to the architectural practice because “they had similar thinking” when it came to an architectural philosophy and preferred character. Hamilton was active at designing much of the firm’s work including numerous apartments and the Apache Elementary School in Scottsdale. Architect Gene Buchli described Hamilton as quiet, a reader, a fit cyclist, and skilled at pencil renderings.
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This article originally appeared in the Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Mar/Apr 2019 issue, Vol. 8, No.2. The Arizona Contractor & Community magazine is a bi-monthly publication.