Meet a Mid-century Modern Architect: Theodore Pletsch

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At the end of WWII, a desire for homeownership surged and a need for minimalistic and timeless designs began. Welcome, mid-century modern. Popular in mid 20th century (1940s – 1970), mid-century modern combined form and function, blurred the lines between outdoors and indoors, showcased bold colors and strong geometrical prints, and featured glass and organic building materials like wood (teak), metal, plastic, and lucite.

Architects who inspired mid-century design included Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eichler, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. And local architect, Theodore Pletsch.

Pletsch was born in Iowa Falls, Iowa in 1901 and traveled with his family to Pasadena when he was only eleven. In 1920, he graduated from Pasadena High School and from USC School of Architecture in 1925. Barely surviving the flue epidemic, Pletsch developed a weak immune system. However, he attributed this to what propelled him on to build up his strength and work as hard as he could.

And boy, did he work hard. Credited for building what is today known as San Marino, Pletsch built hundreds of homes in various architectural styles all over, including Pasadena, San Marino (specifically on Lombardy, Rosalind, Orlando, Virginia, and Oak Grove), and other prestigious locations.

But more than that, he built over 1,300 buildings in total, mostly in the San Gabriel Valley. He designed homes, storefronts, office buildings, the San Marino Tribune building, and a mausoleum in Brea.

According to Pletsch, ”I only design what the customer wants. I’m no Frank Lloyd Wright–never wanted to be. It’s been so much fun I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never been sued, and now one in six architects is sued every year.”