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Louise Blanchard Bethune, Pioneering Architect

By anna on Mar 15, 2014 2:07 PM
Louise Bethune Blgd.jpgLouise Blanchard Bethune (July 21, 1856 - December 18, 1913) was the first woman known to have worked as a professional architect in the United States. Born Jennie Louise Blanchard in Waterloo, New York, she had two educated parents (her father was a school principal; her mother a teacher) and as was common at the time, was herself educated at home. Her parents eventually moved to Buffalo for better jobs and Jennie Louise Blanchard then attended Buffalo High School, where she early on expressed an interest in architecture. After graduating high school in 1874, she prepared for several years to enter the newly opened architecture school at Cornell University, but instead decided to become an apprentice- the more standard way to enter the field. She signed on with the prominent Buffalo architectural firm, R.A. Waite. At 25, she was ready to open her own office, and took with her Robert Bethune, a colleague from the firm, who she married a few months later. She opened her firm as Buffalo was enjoying its most prosperous era. Every architectural firm in the city had work, particularly the ones with great reputations like Bethune's. Renowned architects- among them Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan- championed her, helping her to become a fellow in the American Institute of Architects. In 1888, Louise Blanchard Bethune became the first woman to be voted a member of the AIA. Working almost always in Buffalo, New York, she designed the extraordinary Hotel Lafayette (which in 2012 underwent a $35,000,000 renovation). However, she was most known as an early designer of factory buildings- much needed in then boomtown Buffalo. Many of her industrial buildings still stand today and have remained in fairly recent use: e.g., the Iroquois Door Plant Company and the Buffalo Weaving and Belting Company, to name a few. Additionally, she set standards for modern urban public school buildings- some which remain today in the building of schools. A music store in Buffalo designed by Bethune was one of the first structures in the country with a steel frame and poured concrete slabs. Her contributions to architecture cannot be overstated. As evidence, in 1971, the University at Buffalo named the first home of its School of Architecture Bethune Hall. At a speech given in 1891 before the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, she foresaw the growth of women in architecture, prophesying, "The future of woman in the architectural profession is what she herself sees fit to make it." Kathleen @ Central


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