Obituary: Former state architect John C. Worsley Sr., 94, oversaw Capitol restoration

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - 12:07 am

John C. Worsley Sr., a former California state architect who led efforts to restore the state Capitol to its historic grandeur, died Feb. 20 of pneumonia complications, his family said. He was 94.

Mr. Worsley was an accomplished Bay Area architect and teacher at Stanford University when he was named state architect in 1973. He left the post two years later to serve as project architect for the renovation of the state Capitol. Less than a century after the original was completed on a four-block site in Sacramento, the building had undergone major alterations as state government grew and the Capitol was deemed unsafe in a fire or earthquake.

He oversaw a team of officials responsible for the job, which brought in architects, artisans, engineers and historians who worked to reinforce the building and “recreate the interior to the look of the building before any major changes were made,” Capitol curator Koran Benoit said. The project, which took six years to finish at a cost of more than $68 million dollars, was the biggest restoration completed in North America at the time.

Mr. Worsley was an advocate for disabled people. He donated scrap copper, marble and other materials from the Capitol construction project to the nonprofit Development Disabilities Service Organization to make and sell Capitol-themed memorabilia for sale to the public. The father of a developmentally disabled child, he served on the DDSO foundation board and helped set up an endowment fund for the Sacramento-based group, which operates day programs for developmentally disabled adults.

Mr. Worsley was born in April 8, 1919, about three months after his father died in the 1918 flu pandemic, in Providence, R.I. His mother raised him and an elder brother while working as a secretary at an insurance company.

He graduated with an economics degree from Stanford and was a Navy lieutenant in New Guinea during World War II. He earned a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University and owned his own firm in Menlo Park while lecturing in the department of art and architecture at Stanford from 1959 to 1973.

He served as executive director of the California Building Standards Commission after the Capitol restoration was completed in 1982. He was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and received a presidential citation from the AIA California chapter in 1986.

Mr. Worsley left Sacramento in the late 1980s and lived in Lake Oswego, Ore., before settling for the last several years in Vancouver, Wash.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Helen; his second wife, Kate; and a daughter from his first marriage, Madeline. He is survived by his wife Laura and five children from his first marriage – Jay, Paul, David, Katherine and Nina; nine grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

No service is planned.


Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.

Read more articles by Robert D. Dávila



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