F. Spencer Roach was born in Philadelphia, the son of medical doctor Walter W. Roach, and graduated from Central High School before attending the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a B. Arch. in 1928. He taught at Penn while still a student, working as an assistant in architectural graphics in the academic years 1924/5, 1925/6, and 1926/7. He continued to teach into the 1930s, first as an instructor in interior design in evening classes at the School of Design for Women (1928-9), then as an instructor in architecture at the Wanamaker Institute (1929-1930), and finally as an instructor in commercial art at West Philadelphia High School evening classes (1932-1933).
He began architecture-related work before finishing at Central High: he was employed as an engineering draftsman with the Bell Telephone Company in 1923. While at Penn, he worked as a draftsman in a number of Philadelphia architectural offices: Tilden & Register (in 1925), Tilden, Register & Pepper (in 1926), and Charles Z. Klauder (in 1927). After graduation, Roach worked as a mural painting assistant for artist George M. Harding (in 1928-1929). He then joined the office of Robert Rodes McGoodwin as a draftsman and remained there until 1942. Hannah Benner, one of the first women architecture students at Penn, was also in McGoodwin's emplay in the late 1930s. Benner and Roach married in 1931.
After World War II, Roach joined Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was made a partner in 1961 and retired from practice in 1976.
Roach was very active in the profession and in civic organizations. He joined the national AIA in 1944, and was a member of the Philadelphia Chapter, serving as secretary in 1947-1951, a director in 1953-1956, and as a member of the committee on professional consulting in 1963-1966. He was also a member of the chapter's architectural-engineering liaison commission between 1965 and 1966 and chaired this body in 1966; in 1977, he was a member of the preservation committee.
Outside of his AIA activities, Roach chaired the Construction Industry Council of Philadelphia in 1964-65 and served on the Asbestos Removal Council of the Philadelphia Board of Health from 1944 until his death. Roach was vice president of the Germantown Boys Club from 1970 to 1973 and a member of its board of managers from 1965 to 1977. He also served on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Arbitration Association from 1966 and on the board of directors of the United Fund from 1973 to 1976. Roach was also made a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in 1970 and was an active member of the Carpenters' Company.
Emily T. Cooperman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Philadelphia Art Alliance
- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
- Philadelphia Chapter, AIA
- T-Square Club
- Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia
- Royal Society of Arts
- Peale Club
- University of Pennsylvania
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