This year marks Larry’s 55th Anniversary with Muhlenberg Greene Architects, and 50 years as a Principal. I started to research Larry’s story and came upon a bio (or “epistle” as he referred to it) that Larry wrote in 2002 in conjunction with his 50th prep school reunion at Peddie School. Here is his story…
After Peddie, I attended Oberlin College for a year. A great school, however, the only thing anyone in the family can determine was the reason for my going there was to meet Barbara; our 46th wedding anniversary comes up in September. After that obviously very successful year at Oberlin, I transferred to Syracuse and started all over in the School of Architecture. Graduating in 1957 (I stood right behind Jim Brown in our ROTC commissioning class picture, which my mother remarked was probably an exceptionally safe place to be if you were in the army) I then spent the obligatory two-year active duty stint in the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth and Fort Lee Virginia as operations officer of a microwave radio system, and was discharged in April 1960. The army experience was good (they dump a lot of responsibility on young, green lieutenants), but it was time to finally get on with architecture.
I was able to get a job in Allentown, Pennsylvania where the head of the firm was an old buddy of my father-in-law. (Of course, that had zero influence on my getting that job.) Why Allentown? Well Barbara’s folks owned a small, old farm with a really small, really old, stone farmhouse and the people renting it had just moved out. So, we moved in, and ……. we’re still there (although it’s not really small anymore).
That job in Allentown lasted all of six months because the firm’s three partners decided to split up and then formed two separate organizations. In staffing up, neither one put in dibs for me. Further, at that time, no one else in the Lehigh Valley thought I would be a prize catch, since other offers were nil. However, for good reason, I needed a job! At that time, our family included Larry D. 2, Jeff 6 months and – much to our surprise – Barbara was expecting. In 6 months, that turned out to be Karin. Yes, I needed a job!
I started making exploratory forays from the farm to other places within driving distance and ended up one day in Reading, stopping outside of town at a phone booth to look up architects in the yellow pages. I got the names of ones I thought I could find (i.e. addresses like 5th Street and 6th Street), knocked on doors and got TWO job offers. Of course, I snapped up the first one. Got $10.00 more per week then I had been making, too.
I am an optimist, always have been. However, never could I have imagined what a serendipitous situation I had stepped into. The firm was owned by Frederick A. Muhlenberg, a direct descendent of the Muhlenbergs who played such prominent roles in our colonial history. The patriarch, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, was the leader of the effort to establish the organized Lutheran Church in this region. One son was a general in the Continental Army and later served several terms as U.S. Representative in Congress; another was elected to the House and became the first Speaker. All, including another son, were ordained Lutheran Pastors.
Fred, himself, was a remarkable individual with separate distinguished careers in architecture (a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects), a much decorated soldier in two world wars, and in elected public office. In addition to local positions, he ran successfully for Congress upon returning from WWII to see if a Muhlenberg could still get elected; he was the sixth generation of Muhlenbergs to do so.
Fred and I simply hit it off splendidly. In 1965, (I was 32, he was 75) we formed Muhlenberg Greene Architects. He ultimately retired from the firm one week after his 90th birthday. I tell the current four other principals of our firm that’s what I’m going to do. Scares the hell out of them!
Practicing architecture in Reading for 35+ years has been interesting, challenging, and fun. Our’s is a general practice, which means we do a nice variety of building types: i.e. churches, residential, commercial, industrial, schools, government buildings, elderly housing, and you name it. We’ve dabbled, on occasion, in real estate development, too – a ten-story downtown office building and a 140-acre industrial park. I continue to enjoy all the challenges and have no thoughts, at this time, about retirement.
Other than work at the firm, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in an interesting variety of professional and community organizations. That would include:
- President of the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
- Board member of the Pennsylvania Society of Architects.
- Chairman of the National AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Commerce and Industry.
- Board stints on the Berks County Chamber of Commerce and the United Way.
- Board of Trustees of Muhlenberg College and Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.
- Board member of Home Health Care Management (the local Vising Nurse Association).
- Board member of BARTA – Berks Area Reading Transportation Authority.
- Member and past president of the Rotary Club of Reading.
- Long-time member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Allentown, serving over the years in a variety of roles.
In a nutshell (BIG one), that’s my last 50 years. I apologize for totally obliterating the request for up to 400-500 words, but this is just the way it came out.
Larry wrote this “epistle” 13 years ago, and says he got a kick out of reading it all over again today. As we sorted through old pictures to put with this blog post, we heard Larry chuckling to himself. Here are a few from the early years.