DOWNTOWN — James Donald Mount, a local architect and longtime civic leader who believed in preserving and building affordable housing, died of natural causes at the age of 88 Tuesday at the home he designed on San Vicente Boulevard, family members said.
Mount, a graduate of the University of Southern California where he earned his degree in architecture following his service in the Marines during World War II, designed several buildings in Santa Monica, including the YWCA and Red Cross buildings, the Salvation Army Church and headquarters, Memorial Park Gymnasium, the former Fisher Lumber Co. building and several auto dealerships, according to the book “Santa Monica: 1950 — 2010” by local historian Louise B. Gabriel.
In addition to his architectural work, Mount was very active in the community, serving as president of the YMCA, the Chamber of Commerce, Sunrise Optimist Club and Community Chest (now known as the United Way). He served on the boards of the Red Cross and Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the city’s leading provider of affordable housing. Mount also was a member of the city’s Building and Safety Commission and Architectural Review Board, and on the General Advisory Board of Santa Monica College.
“He was an amazing father, a genuinely good man, purposeful and always enthusiastic,” said Mount’s daughter, Lisa Mount. “We feel we struck it rich in the parent lottery.”
Lisa Mount said her father was dedicated to his craft, often working 12-hour days, including Saturdays, but he would always make it home for dinner with the family. He didn’t retire until 2009, and only did so at the urging of his wife, Lisa Mount said.
A native of Portland, Ore., Mount was born on Aug. 11, 1924. He moved to Los Angeles as an adolescent and graduated from John Marshall High School. He met the love of his life, Ruth Daugherty Mount, and the two moved to Santa Monica in 1947 to start a family. The couple was married for 64 years and were fond of traveling the world, eating great food and spending time with their loved ones, family members said.
Ruth Mount passed away in 2011. Jim Mount would often remark that she had “won the prize by crossing the finish line first.”
Aside from his love of architecture, Mount also loved cars, having spent more than 20 years volunteering with the Pit Crew at the Peterson Automotive Museum. He could often be seen wearing a sweatshirt that said “still plays with cars.” At the age of 87, he took a solo driving tour of the United States in his Mini Cooper convertible, visiting friends, family and automotive museums.
“He referred to cars as ‘rolling architecture,’” Lisa Mount said. “He lived a rich, full life. He was at peace at the end, knowing that he’d done everything he set out to do.”
His memory will live on in the form of his buildings, which still stand today.
Tara Pomposini, CEO of the YMCA, said Mount was always ready and willing to contribute his time and expertise to help make the Y’s home better, snatching up plans at a moment’s notice and rushing on site to address any building complications that arose at their facility on Sixth Street, where he took exercise classes.
“There’s no way that you can walk into the building and not think of Jim,” Pomposini said. “He was just so impactful.”
The family will hold a private service. The family asks that anyone who feels compelled to send flowers instead make a donation in his name to the YMCA by visiting www.ymcasm.org.