Habitat: “Early Women in Architecture in Maryland” Exhibit

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Recently I attended the reception co-hosted by the Baltimore Chapter of the AIA and the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the AIA for the Exhibit “Early Women in Architecture in Maryland.” The exhibit highlighted the work of twelve architects from the first generation of women who were pioneers in my profession. I knew of their work from the book “Women in American Architecture: A Historical Perspective” which was published in 1977 and was the first book to research and celebrate the work of women architects. The exhibit contained work from two architects who designed projects on the Eastern Shore; Victorine DuPont Homsey and Chloethiel Woodard Smith.

DuPont Homsey graduated in 1925 and after working for several firms established her practice in Wilmington, DE in 1935 with her husband, Samuel Homsey as Victorine & Samuel Homsey, Inc. Due to her talent as an architect and her DuPont family connections, the firm flourished with commissions at Longwood Gardens and the visitor’s pavilion ,offices and lecture hall for Winterthur Museum. Other notable projects included the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran, the Delaware Art Museum and the Yacht Club in Cambridge, MD.

Chloethiel Woodard Smith once remarked “I am an architect with a capital “A” not a woman architect”. She graduated in 1933 and after working for several firms in Washington DC, she formed Keyes, Smith & Satterlee in 1950 and established her own practice, Cloethiel Woodard Smith & Associates, in 1963.

She practiced architecture and urban design and she designed the redevelopment plans for the SW quadrant of DC as well as several projects within the redevelopment, including Waterside Mall, Harbour Square, and Capitol Park. Her residential commissions varied from custom homes to townhomes including a residence in St. Michaels. Her commercial projects included being the architect for three of the four office buildings at NW corner of Connecticut Avenue and L Street. She served on many civic commissions and was instrumental in proposing a national museum to celebrate architecture that led to the renovation of the Pension Building to house the National Building Museum, one of my favorite DC buildings.

The large exhibit boards were beautifully designed with a picture of each architect and photographs of their remarkable body of work. As I left the exhibit I thought about how far women have come today from these women who were of my mother’s generation. She was a homemaker and channeled her creative talent to design the house in which I grew up. I am so grateful that she lived to see her daughter be the only woman accepted in her class at UT Knoxville’s architecture school and to later found the first woman-owned architecture firm in Tennessee.

If there is a young woman in your life who shows an interest in art, geometry, buildings, etc., accompany her to this exhibit so she and you can be inspired by these women as I was and hopefully her generation of women architects will continue the line these exceptional women architects began.

The exhibit “Early Women in Architecture in Maryland-1920-1970” runs through August 24th at the Dorchester Center for the Arts, 321 High Street, Cambridge, MD. Exhibit hours are 10:00 to 5:00, Tuesday through Thursday, 10:00 to 4:00 Friday and Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 on Sunday. For more information call 410-228-7782 or visit www.dorchesterarts.com

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

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