Terrence “Terry” Cloney Atkinson was born in Eureka, California on August 8, 1915. He attended Humboldt State University in Arcata, California for two years and received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of California Berkeley in 1936 and completed two years of postgraduate study at the Art Center of College of Design in Los Angeles, graduating in 1938. Atkinson moved to Tucson in 1939 to work as the Chief Draftsman for the firm of Richard Morse and Arthur Brown from 1940 to 1941, worked from 1941 to 1942 with the firm of Headman, Ferguson & Carollo. From 1942 to 1946 he worked for James MacMillan. During WWII he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in WWII serving in the Pacific and Burma-China-India theaters. In 1946 he became an architect and established his own practice “Terry Atkinson Architect” with offices located at 2424 East Broadway Boulevard along the Sunshine Mile.  

Beginning in 1946 Atkinson worked on numerous religious projects for the Roman Catholic Church under the patronage of Bishop Daniel J. Gercke. These projects included: Centro De Pio Decimo Pius X Confraternity Center (1946) 848 South 7th Avenue;  Saint Ambrose Church (1947) 300 South Tucson Boulevard; All Saints Catholic Church renovation (1947) 408 South 6th Avenue; Sacred Heart Church (1947) 601 East Fort Lowell Road; Saint John’s Church (1947) 602 West Ajo Way; Sacred Heart Church (1947) 592 E Safford St, Tombstone, Arizona; All Saints School (1948) South 6th Avenue; Saint Peter and Paul Church (1948) 1946 East Lee Street; Salpointe Catholic High School (1949) 1545 East Copper Street; Saint Cyril Catholic Church (1951) 4725 E Pima Street; Thomas More Chapel Catholic Newman Center (1953) 1615 E 2nd Street; Santa Margarita Church (1956) 801 North Grande Avenue; St. Augustine Catholic High School (1955) 8800 E 22nd Street and the 1967 reconstruction and new Saint Augustine Cathedral Nave.

The design program for many of these church buildings utilized a style described at the time as “Modern Spanish Architecture.”  Atkinson used exposed brick, plaster, symmetry and traditional religious building forms in a clean simplified approach that created a stylistic expression that was both rooted in ecclesiastical tradition and and his own distinctive style.  The success of these projects resulted in commissions from other denominations including the 1948 non-denominational “Bible Chapel” at 1804 East North Street with architect J. E. Davies of California and the North Tucson Baptist Church designed in 1953 at 3133 North First Avenue.

  • Valley National Bank Branch Building, 1957, 2465 N. Campbell Avenue, Terry Atkinson
    Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas for Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation

During this period Atkinson also designed residential and commercial projects including a noted speculative home in 1947 for Better Home Inc. at 520 Avenida De Palmas in the Historic Colonia Solana neighborhood. In 1948 Atkinson was hired by Mr. and Mrs Nat Bosnos to design significant addition to their building a 1149 North Stone creating a small shopping plaza. In January of 1949 Atkinson held a public forum to discuss issues between design and construction and “lauded Frank Lloyd Wright[‘s …] modern scheme of simplicity and function.” Throughout this period Atkinson work was continually featured in local publications.  

In March of 1949 Atkinson was elected president of the Arizona Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Other major projects during this period included the Medical Square located on the southwest corner of Tucson Boulevard and East Elm Street. Commissioned by the Medent Building corporation under the direction of Dr. Benson Bloom, the complex was conceived to accommodate 75-100 doctors and dentists occupying two city blocks and was touted by Bloom at the time in the February 22, 1949 Arizona Daily Star as the “most extensive development of its type in the United States.”

In February 1952 Atkinson exhibited in the Tucson Art Center “Architects Show” with other significant tucson designers including: Arthur T. Brown, William H. Carr, Frederick A. Eastman; Jaastad and Knipe, Joesler, Gordon Maas Luepke, James MacMillan, Place and Place, Scholer, Sakellar and Fuller, Starkweather and Morse; landscape architects: James Hostetter, Harlow and Greene; builders and suppliers: Nanini Construction Company, Pioneer Paints and Varnish Company and San Xavier Rock and Sand, and interiors designers including: Arizona Studios. Desert House Crafts inc. Desert Guild, Steinfeld’s and Goebels decorators.

In 1959 Atkinson participated in the Tucson Crafts in Use show under the Tucson Fine Arts Association presenting a display “The Executive’s Office”

Atkinson served as a director of The Bank of Tucson and in 1966 he became a member of the Tucson Gas and Electric (Tucson Electric Power Company) Board of Directors and served on the executive committee of American Institute of Architects’ Southern Arizona Chapter.  He participated in the Tucson Regional Plan and Tucson Community Goals Committee and Served as a Pima County Juvenile Court referee.  He served as past president of the Tucson Festival Society and the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild and American Watercolor Society.  

Atkinson’s contribution to Tucson’s built environment was significant. His early work displayed a distinctive stylistic approach attempting to bridge the pre- and post-WWII styles that were prominent in Tucson.  His design signature can be seen on his surviving building.  His later work and major commissions shaped the design of Tucson. These projects included 1967 Tucson Electric Power Company Building at 220 West 6th Street, Tucson Medical Center additions, 1973 Tucson Newspapers Inc Buildings, Pima County Governmental Center, 1963 Tucson International Airport Terminal Building, the 1977 University of Arizona College Of Law building, 1964 College of Architecture building and Biological Sciences West Building, and numerous buildings at the Northern Arizona University Campus in Flagstaff.

Terry Atkinson’s home was located at 3291 East Fifth Street. Atkinson died June 2, 1983 at the age of 67.

Significant Buildings.

1946 5th Street and Campbell apartment building

1947 Saint Ambrose Church

1947 Better Homes, Inc. Speculative House 520 Avenida Des Palmas (Colonia Solana)

1951 Jacorne’s Department Store, Stone Avenue Location (Demolished)

1951 Safeway, 3566 East Speedway

1952 University of Arizona Nursery, Home Management House

1953 KVOA Television and Broadcasting Studio.

1953 Arizona State College, (NAU) Flagstaff, Student Union

1953 North Tucson Baptist Church, 3133 North First Avenue

1953 Tucson Airport

1953 New Duffy Elementary

1954 Amphitheater High School, Yavapai Road

1956 J. C. Penney Co. Department Store

1957 Tucson Medical Center additions.

1956 Walgreens Building (Montgomery Ward Building redesign) Stone Ave and Penington

1958 University of Arizona Home Economics Building

1958 Valley Bank (Oracle Road and Grant Road branch)

1959 Tucson Medical Center Hospital

1962 Tucson Ophthalmologist

1963 Tucson International Airport

1964 University of Arizona Architecture Building

1977 University of Arizona Law School

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