Collection Type:

Biography/History: 

The firm of Mitchell & Ritchey (1938-1957) established itself as the principle advocate for modern architecture in Pittsburgh during the 1940s and 1950s. Mitchell & Ritchey produced a significant body of work of their own, and were associated with firms like Harrison & Abramowitz on important Pittsburgh projects. The firm placed third in a prominent 1939 competition for the design of a Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution. A number of projects for Edgar Kaufmann included the 1947 "Pittsburgh in Progress" study, a fascinating Modernist document that provides an extraordinary vision of a reconceived and redeveloped Pittsburgh.

James A. Mitchell (1907-1999), a graduate of Carnegie Institute of Technology and Columbia Universities, was the lead design architect in the firm and deserves primary credit for the firm's assertive and sometimes innovative modern design work. He received U.S. patent 2,692,566 in 1954 for the design of a flexible folding roof that was developed for an early version of the firm's Civic Auditorium [Civic Arena] project. Mitchell left Pittsburgh soon after his partnership with Dahlen K. Ritchey was disolved in 1957, and was largely forgotten in Pittsburgh.

Dahlen K. Ritchey (1910-2002), a graduate of Carnegie Institute of Technology and Harvard universities, was the lead business and project management partner in the original firm of Mitchell and Ritchey. Ritchey stayed on in Pittsburgh after the dissolution of the firm and is frequently credited with the firm's design work. Ritchey was subsequently a partner in the firms of D.K. Ritchey Associates (1957-1959), Deeter & Ritchey (1959-1965), and Deeter Ritchey Sippel Associates (1965-1979). The firm continues as DRS Architects.

The respective responsibilities and credits for the work of Mitchell and Ritchey were laid out in an agreement dated May 17, 1956, prior to the dissolution of the firm.

Mitchell & Ritchey designed a number of large-scale redevelopment projects during the so-called Pittsburgh Renaissance (though some were completed after the dissolution of the firm) including Mellon Square (1955), John J. Kane Memorial Hospital (1959), and The Civic Auditorium [Civic Arena] (1962). The last was part of the firm's visionary Lower Hill Cultural Center scheme. Later firms associated with Dahlen Ritchey designed Allegheny Center (1960s) and the Pittsburgh Stadium [Three Rivers Stadium] (1971) among other key projects.

The work of these firms also included schools, defense housing projects, corporate office buildings, health care facilities, and numerous buildings for the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (i.e. Donner Hall, Wean Hall and Cyert Hall).

The firms were often associated with the noted architectural landscaping firm of Simonds and Simonds on major public and institutional projects.

For a partial listing of the work of the various firms see: DRS job list 1949-1973.

Scope and Content: 

The Mitchell & Ritchey Collection includes drawings, renderings, microforms, photographs, slides, films, brochures, reports, clippings and other materials representing approximately 100 projects by Mitchell & Ritchey and successor firms. Many project drawings were discarded by the firm in favor of microfilm prior to the establishment of this collection, so the variety of documentation represented here is particularly significant. There are substantial drawing sets for Mellon Square, The Civic Auditorium, Pittsburgh Stadium, and Wean Hall.

Select Bibliography: 

Mitchell, James A. and Dahlen K. Ritchey, “Impressions and Reflections: Part I,” The Charette 17:7 (July 1937): 1-2.

Mitchell, James A. and Dahlen K. Ritchey, “Impressions and Reflections: Part II,” The Charette 17:8 (August 1937): 1-2.

Remington, Fred. "Architect of the Renaissance." Pittsburgh (October 1978): 38-41, 80-81.

Kornwolf, James D. Modernism in America 1937-1941: A Catalog and Exhibition of Four Architectural Competitions : Wheaton College, Goucher College, College of William and Mary, Smithsonian Institution. Williamsburg, Va.: Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle Museum of Art, 1985.