Part 2: Remembering Len

Raquel Urbani

September 30, 2014

This is the second of a three-part series of a behind-the-scenes look at the architect Leonard D. Blackford who passed away Wednesday, September 24, 2014. Part 1 can be found here.

In 1952, the General Manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District was Paul Shaad, an outspoken iconoclast. He and the Board agreed that a new purpose-built headquarters building was an important step for the fledgling utility, and that he was just the man to drive the project. His Assistant General Manager was James Kennedy Carr, who would also figure into Dreyfuss & Blackford’s history. SMUD’s Mr. Shaad (below, on left) established a short list of regional architects – including the office of Albert M. Dreyfuss – as he liked to frequently drop by representative projects unannounced. On the day he visited the Starr King School project, Mr. Shaad found Leonard Blackford on the roof with the superintendent from Campbell Construction. Paul Shaad was impressed with Len’s hands-on design approach, his passion for quality and the exactitude of his creative vision. The selection was made by SMUD, based largely on Len’s clear passion and promise. Soon after, Albert made Len an equal partner in the firm, and Dreyfuss & Blackford was born with the SMUD Headquarters project.



The first office of Dreyfuss & Blackford Architects was a leased space on J Street (pictured at beginning of Part 1). More projects meant more staff and they were quickly outgrowing that space.

Dreyfuss & Blackford Office, 28th & I Street, Sacramento, 1962

A new larger office on I Street was designed and under construction by 1962, but with newly acquired work at the Sacramento Airport and new staff, it meant that they needed more space yet again. So they quickly sold the just-completed office at the corner of 28th and I Streets in Midtown (above) and moved into the newly built office in East Sacramento in 1965. This office at 3540 Folsom Boulevard (below) is where we still remain today.


In 1967, while working on projects including the original Terminal B (below) at the Sacramento Airport (Sacramento Metropolitan Field, now Sacramento International Airport), they received a phone call from the new Airport Director in San Francisco, James K. Carr.


80018 Sacramento International Airport Terminal B, 1967

Mr. Carr went on to serve in the Kennedy administration but stayed in touch with Albert. By 1967 he was beginning the expansion of the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and he knew just the planner he wanted on the project. Dreyfuss & Blackford was paired with John Carl Warneke and Len Blackford was entrusted with master planning for the airport. The aviation work in San Francisco led to a Dreyfuss & Blackford satellite office there in the ALCOA building, directly downstairs from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Len and Al divided their time between Sacramento and San Francisco from 1965 to 1970. Both Len and Al were pilots and they had a company plane which allowed for easy transportation back and forth between cities.


81003 San Francisco International Airport, 1981

The circular roadways, central garage and curved terminals at SFO are the legacy of Len’s planning vision – along with a commitment to a future rapid transit station within the garage complex. San Francisco would wait 20+ years for this BART extension to happen but it finally did, planned for decades before.

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