A visit with Architect John Adams, who designed many of the homes in both King City and Summerfield
by: Gail Park, John Adams

King City and Summerfield Estates in Tigard wouldn't be the vital communities they are today without the ingenuity of John Adams.

When King City was in its infancy, Adams, who has lived most of his life in the same Garden Home area home, was enticed by Ron Sorensen to join his team at the Tualatin Development Company.

Sorensen, the founder and mastermind behind the concept of the community for adults age 55 and over, needed an extra hand to complete his innovative endeavor.

Sorensen met Adams, a graduate of Oregon Polytechnic Institute, at one of Portland's first home shows in the mid 1960's. Adams had a display of his drawings on exhibit. Impressed by the showcase, Sorensen warmly extended an invitation to the independent residential designer to join his ambitious company. Interested in building up his résumé, Adams accepted the offer enthusiastically.

Most of the concepts for the King City development were already underway by the time Adams came onboard. Sorensen led the development team as president. Tony Wald, his good friend, was vice president.

Eventually, Adams would fill in for Wald.

Initially, Adams helped seal the deals with the new King City homeowners. He customized their home plans based on one of the seven models they had purchased. He squeezed his designs into the 2-bedroom, single floor, ranch style homes on small lots.

Very accommodating for family heirlooms and special requests, each home was produced with a certain look on the outside and masterfully personalized on the inside according to the owners tastes.

It was building according to what the owner was bringing to the home, not finding furniture to fit the rooms.

"Interior walls were maneuvered to make things work," Adams said.

When King City, complete with is own shopping center (also designed by Adams) was finished, the Tualatin Development Company purchased the land to the east of the development, across the Pacific Highway in former cow pasture and blueberry patches.

Drawing up plans for the second adult community in the area, Adams orchestrated Summerfield with a conceptualized nine-hole golf course, five original model homes, a clubhouse and condominiums, and he formed a lake by damming up a small canyon.

"I had a lot more versatility at Summerfield because I designed the community and all of its models," says Adams, now 80-years-old. "We were overwhelmed with design plans and getting plans approved by Washington County. I hired architects to assist us. Ron and Tony gave me a free hand to do what I wanted.'

Adams worked feverishly on the plans, and often careened around the office.

"I would create the designs at one desk," describes Adams, "then walk across the office to another desk to stamp them with approval. The county didn't see the project as viable, yet we sold 30 homes one month. Just before I left, the company sold for $40 million."

After 20 years of service Adams retired as its vice president.

According to Adams, both King City and Summerfield haven't changed much over the years. Increased traffic, a wider highway, speed bumps and the looming presence of homes on the overlooking the two communities from the slopes of Bull Mountain are new on the landscape.

"My son lives on the other side of those homes," says Adams pointing to Bull Mountain.

Adam's world is entwined with memories of King City, Summerfield and Garden Home. He has lived almost his entire life on the same Oleson Road property that his parents purchased when he was in second-grade.

That was in 1934 (His wife Gloria joined him in 1949).

In 1932, his father bought the 6-acre, heavily timbered plot, to operate a sawmill and "get away from our home at 47th and Hawthorne," Adams recalls, his quick mind filling in the details as though he is precisely unfolding recent events. "It took two years for dad to build our home. But he wanted me to start school there. I took the old Tualatin Valley bus, the blue line, from the Sixth Street station."

It was quiet the event going to school at the Garden Home Schoolhouse. He caught the trolley from 47th to downtown, then got on the Blue Line. Every day Jiggles, the driver, who knew most of his passengers, safely delivered the young Adams to the country school. When his lessons were over for the day he caught the Blue Line back to downtown.

Adams especially likes to talk about Garden Homes businesses . . . the old general store where right inside the door a candy case lured in the kids who went home with a bag full of 1-cent sweets. He recalls getting his hair cut at the barbershop across from the railway station which the Old Market Pub now occupies. When the conversation gets lively, he leans forward to hear better - deafened from the time he was a turret gunner for the Navy during World War II.

Adams recalls the Oregon Electric Railway trains that went by in his youth.

"Clickety clack, clickety clack, the train rocked down the rails," he said and smiles. "We used to go to the 5-cent Saturday matinee in Multnomah. We'd walk down those tracks."

The tracks were abandoned in 1941.

Over time Adams, who graduated with the class of 1944 at Tigard High School, has sold off most of his property or has had to give it to the county for road improvements. "I retained a grove of second-growth fir trees to honor my father. The stand reminds me of the fun and good times I had with dad."

For years following high school Adams drove delivery trucks. While driving for area merchants he entered a contest and won a scholarship to engineering school.

Hard work, dedication, a keen eye for design and a chance encounter with Sorensen catapulted Adams into a career that would place adult communities on Oregon's map. Today's quick turnover of King City and Summerfield residences is a testament to Adams' bedrock ideas that emerged from the huge potential in empty pastures.

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