Charles H. Atherton

CFA Service: 1965–2004

Charles Henry Atherton, FAIA, served as secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts for nearly forty years.  He joined the commission in 1960 as assistant secretary and was named secretary in 1965 after Linton Wilson’s retirement; he retired in 2004.  Atherton was educated at Princeton University, receiving both an undergraduate degree in architecture in 1954 and a master’s degree in fine arts in architecture in 1957.  He then served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and worked as an architect for the Central Intelligence Agency for three years before joining the commission staff in 1960. The size and professional culture of the CFA staff grew under Atherton’s long tenure; it took on a greater role in historic research, project analysis, presentations, and coordination with other federal agencies.  Atherton also initiated the CFA publications program, which produced a series of books and publications on the architectural history of the national capital city.  He was involved in numerous organizations, including the Parks and History Association, the Navy Art Foundation, the Historical Society of Washington, the Columbia Historical Society, and the National Endowment for the Arts; he served as the president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Among his many honors were the Centennial Award of the D.C. chapter of the American Institute of Architects (1993), the District of Columbia Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation (2004), and a Committee of 100 Lifetime Achievement Award.  He was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1984 and was awarded the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2005.