Roy Place formed a partnership with John B. Lyman in Tucson in 1919 in an architecture firm known as Lyman and Place. It was the beginning of what came to be one of the most renowned architectural teams in the state. Five years later, Lyman left for San Diego and Roy Place established himself as a nationally respected architect.
Roy was born in San Diego on December 17, 1887. He attended San Diego public schools and graduated from Russ High School there in 1906. He was the son of Harry J. and Stella T. Place. Roy had one sister, Irene Place Choate.
Upon Roy's high school graduation, he went to Sacramento, California, and was associated with Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects of Boston, Massachusetts. He subsequently worked as an architect in Chicago and California. In Sacramento, he was associated with the California State Engineering Department, where he was a designer and a supervisory architect on several state buildings.
In 1909, he was the architect-inspector for the State Insane Asylum at Patton, California. When Jack Lyman was awarded the supervisory architect's contract for the construction of the UA's Mines and Engineering Building in 1916, Lyman called upon Roy Place. They had been close friends in San Diego, both of them designers and experienced.
Lyman knew that Place had some additional qualifications that Lyman was short on. Place had supervised construction in the field and Lyman felt a certain inadequacy in that area.
The design of the structure was strictly Lyman's, who drew the elevations and floor plans. He signed a building contract with the State of Arizona and agreed to supervise construction on force account. The university was to supply the labor. Lyman knew that he needed Roy Place, so he asked Roy to join him in Tucson. Roy was in real estate in San Diego, was married to the former Wynne Crowe (nicknamed "Jim, " of course) of that city and had a young son, Lew. Later, another son, Meade, was born.
Roy was happy to get back into architecture, so he came to Tucson alone, at that time, to supervise the construction of the Mines and Engineering Building. The building was widely acclaimed for its design and construction and Roy saw a future in architecture in Tucson and with the university. When Lyman returned from his service with the Corps of Engineers, the two re-formed their partnership. Roy had tried to serve in World War I, but while in Los Angeles, he caught the flu and was unable to enter the service.
With the partnership, Jack Lyman and Roy Place set up an office in an old adobe building on the east side of Stone Avenue between Broadway and Congress Street. After Lyman returned to San Diego, Roy established an office in the west end, second floor of the Steinfeld Grocery Store on the northwest comer of Pennington Street and Stone Avenue. The building had formerly been the Tucson Post Office. Roy's office had been occupied by Henry Buehman, who used it as a photographer's studio. The space had northern lighting and Roy found it an excellent location for his drawing table and that of his chief draftsman, James McMillan. McMillan had worked for Henry Trost in El Paso. Before Trost went to El Paso, he was a Tucson architect, who built a number of fine residences and private buildings.
In 1940, Roy made his son, Lew, a partner. Lew had worked for him as an inspector and clerk of the works and had studied under his father and McMillan and had succeeded in getting his architect's license. That firm was known as Place and Place and Lew retained the name after his father died in 1950.
Place and Place was located on the second floor of what is now Walgreen's Drug on the southeast comer of Stone Avenue and Pennington Street. It was above Langer's Flower Shop which was at the west end of the building at 11 E. Pennington Street.
Roy and Lew Place were responsible for many outstanding works not on the campus of the University of Arizona. Included were the Pima County Courthouse (with its tiled dome), Mansfeld Junior High School which features a frieze of early Arizona scenes over the proscenium arch in the auditorium (designed by Lew Place), the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, the Pioneer Hotel (now a Tucson office building), Tucson Medical Center, the Cochise County Court House in Bisbee, the Benedictine Convent in Tucson, U.S. Post Offices in Tucson and Yuma, and the Corbett Lumber and Hardware Co. They also designed a few residential homes in the Tucson area.
Roy Place was affiliated with Tucson Lodge No.4, F. & A. M.; Arizona Consistory No.1, A.A.S.R. in Tucson, El Zaribah Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S., in Phoenix. He was past president of the Tucson Rotary Club and a member of the Old Pueblo Club, El Rio Golf and Country Club, past president of the Engineer Club and American Institute of Architects, first president of the Arizona chapter.
In later years, Roy Place acquired the Bear Valley Ranch in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, and a farm in partnership with his sons at Amado. He took a deep interest in both of the spreads, but they were avocations for him. He never lost his love of architecture.
At one time, Roy and four partners laid out and developed the subdivision on the near eastside known as Colonia Solana. Lew worked there as a teenage "water specialist." He watered the many palm trees planted along the subdivision's street.
Roy was a pleasant, gregarious and social man who enjoyed many friends. He was an excellent poker player and understood politics, which an architect associating with the State Legislature, the Governor, and city and county elected officials had to do. In Arizona, architects of state projects are selected. They do not bid on projects, as builders do.
At one time, during the period of the Lyman and Place partnership, the two of them were appointed by Governor Campbell as the official architectural firm for the State of Arizona. Perhaps Campbell felt that state money could be saved by placing the designers on a salary, rather than paying them a percentage of the cost of construction.
Their appointment lasted for two years, but no state buildings were designed, constructed or appropriated for during that time. At the end of the period, a new governor was elected and the position was abolished.
The Arizona Daily Star on August 26, 1931, had this to say about the craftsmanship of Roy Place, in an editorial headed, "An Arizona Craftsman."
The friends of Roy Place are gratified by news from Washington that the Treasury Department has selected him as architect for the new federal building at Yuma. In addition to being pleased at his good fortune, they are flattered that the architectural talent of a Tucsonan is rated so highly in Washington. Mr. Place has had a prominent part in shaping the architectural development of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Many of the University Buildings bear the stamp of his craftsmanship as do also such buildings as the Pima and Cochise County Courthouses, the Pioneer Hotel and the Yuma City Hall.