Born: 19 February 1897, Claremont, Western Australia
Died: 28 November 1965, Cottesloe, Western Australia
Occupation: Engineer, Architect and Military Officer
Hometown: Perth, Western Australia
Reginald Summerhayes was the son of notable Perth architect Edwin and his wife Florence nee Camm. He was educated at Scotch College, Claremont, where he was Dux in 1913. He then studied engineering at the University of Western Australia, gaining distinction by proving an apt student.
In 1916, with his father overseas and second in command of the 44th Battalion (he would be returned to Australia in 1917 as ‘unsuitable’), Reginald obtained a commission with the Royal Flying Corps and trained at the Royal Aviation School in England. A biography by Dr John Taylor reports he was awarded a Military Cross which was presented to him at Buckingham Palace on 19 February 1918; his 21st birthday.
On his return to Perth he resumed his studies at UWA and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in April 1921. He then joined the Singapore firm of Swan and Maclaren and became managing architect of the Kuala Lumpur branch.
He returned to Perth in 1925 and joined his father Edwin in practice as E Summerhayes & Son, Architects and Engineers, at the Colonial Mutual Chambers, 53 St George’s Terrace. They worked together until Edwin’s retirement in the early 1930s.
Reg Summerhayes subsequently designed a number of notable buildings in Perth including, in association with Sydney firm Hennessy & Co, the companion constructions of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society (CML) building in 1936 and the adjacent Lawson Flats in 1937. Later that year Harry Boan commissioned him to design an entire house full of furniture for Boans, to suit the streamlined architecture of the day.
In 1939 he and Marshall Clifton, another renowned Perth architect, designed three significant hotels which were all constructed during 1940: the Highway in Claremont for the Swan Brewery, the Civic in Inglewood and the Swanbourne Hotel.
Only weeks after the outbreak of WWII in September 1939 Summerhayes enlisted and, at the rank of temporary lieutenant colonel, served at Karrakatta throughout the war in the Citizen Forces. He then returned to practice but with post-war building shortages in place, there was little to be designed until the early 1950s when he established Summerhayes & Associates. In 1952 he was made a Fellow of The Royal Institute of British Architects for his services to architecture in Western Australia. The following year his son Geoffrey completed his studies in architecture in Australia and the US and effectively assumed leadership of his father’s firm.
Reginald then travelled extensively with Sheila (nee Durack, whom he’d married in 1927), enjoying his diminished role and the chance for more leisurely pursuits. He died at Cottesloe in 1965, aged 68. Sheila outlived him by two dozen years and died in 1989 aged 85.