Architect’s Archive: The work of Day Hilborn

Speaker at Oct. 4 event will highlight the local and regionally renowned architect Day Hilborn

VANCOUVER — On Thu., Oct. 4, the Clark County Historical Museum (CCHM) will host its  next First Thursday Speaker Series event, which is sponsored by Clark County’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The speaker, Clark County Historic Preservation Commissioner and CCHS Board Member, Sean Denniston, will highlight the local and regionally renowned architect Day Hilborn. This program will highlight Hilborn’s background, legacy, and architectural masterpieces.

General admission is $5, seniors and students are $4, children under 18 are $3, and the evening is free with a CCHM membership. Doors open at 5 p.m., the event begins at 7 p.m.. The museum encourages attendees to get there early, as it is first-come, first-served seating.

According to WA State’s Department of Archaeology & Historical Preservation, “No single person in the history of Southwest Washington has had a greater impact on the physical built environment than architect, Day Hilborn. His projects span a 40-year period and define many of the cultural institutions of (Clark County and beyond).” His most notable works in Clark County include the County Courthouse, the Kiggins Theater, the Kiggins Bowl Stadium, Vancouver Federal Savings & Loan building, and the First United Methodist Church.  

Vancouver’s Kiggins Theater is shown here in this 1941 photo. Photo courtesy of Clark County Historical Museum
Vancouver’s Kiggins Theater is shown here in this 1941 photo. Photo courtesy of Clark County Historical Museum

Brad Richardson, CCHM’s executive director, said,”Hilborn’s buildings are illustrative of the changing landscape of architecture in Clark County throughout the 20th Century.  He designed numerous schools, banks, churches, theaters, and homes throughout the Pacific Northwest. From the Kiggins Theatre to the Spic-N-Span Drive-In (now Muchas Gracias), a great deal of Clark County history has taken place in spaces designed by Hilborn.”

Day Hilborn was born in Michigan in 1897, though his family moved to the Seattle area when he was still young.  Shortly after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army and was active in skirmishes along the Texas-Mexican border. He also served in France during WWI. While he was there, he sent home many lovely sketches of buildings that he found interesting. When he was able to return to school, he received degrees in structural engineering and architecture at Washington State College in Pullman, WA.

Hilborn was socially conscious and well-rounded. He was the first president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Also, he chaired the committee to revise Clark County building codes.  He served for many years on Vancouver’s Court of Appeals, all the while being active in his church, the Salvation Army, and vocal/theatrical groups. He is described by those that knew him well, as an artist and a gentleman.

CCHM is honored to have Denniston host this special event and be able to share this thoroughly unique window into Clark County’s past with our community.

Sean Denniston

Denniston earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture at the University of Oregon where he also minored in Architectural History and Religious Studies. He earned his Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania.

Though his career path has taken him into sustainability, it has always been with a focus on historic preservation, whether rehabbing old houses in Philadelphia or serving as New Buildings Institute’s existing buildings specialist. This dual interest resulting in him leading the collaboration that rewrote the definition for “historic building” in the national model codes and restructured how the energy code applied to historic buildings. His recent service on the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission has allowed him to bring his preservation knowledge to serve the community of Clark County.

For more information, please contact the museum at (360) 993-5679 or by email at

The Clark County Historical Museum is operated by the Clark County Historical Society (CCHS), which is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization governed by a Board of Trustees. CCHS works in partnership with Clark County and the City of Vancouver to operate the museum in a 1909 Carnegie Library building. The vision is to facilitate a more educated and connected community through meaningful engagement with history. CCHM is located at 1511 Main St, Vancouver, WA 98660 – just off the I-5 and Mill Plain Blvd. Daily hours of operation: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.. For further information, call (360) 993-5679, email, or visit CCHM’s First Thursday Speaker Series is sponsored by Clark County’s Historic Preservation Commission.

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