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Harriet Morrison Irwin redesigned her home so it'd be easier to dust the corners in the house. Harriet Irwin was born in 1828 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Her education included home schooling by her father, Reverend Robert Hall Morrison, who was the first president of Davidson College, Davidson, NC, and later, more formal education at the Institute for Female Education, Salem, NC. After graduation and some traveling in Europe, she married James P. Irwin in Alabama and moved to Charlotte, NC, and settled.

Although Harriet Irwin never received any formal architectural education, while being a mother of nine children, she studied architecture on her own, and with her unique perspective in home-designing from being a housewife, she redesigned her house during the reconstruction period after the Civil War. She came up with the idea of a hexagonal house, in which "each room is connected in a continuous circular pattern" ("Her Name is H..."). At that time, this six-sided shape was quite unusual to the people. Nevertheless, with the new design, space was used more efficiently and it eliminated the problem of sharp corners that are difficult to dust and clean. On August 24, 1869, Irwin patented her design and became the first woman in the US to patent an architectural innovation.

Irwin designed at least two more houses after her home and published a novel and various articles before her death in 1897. Her first hexagonal house still stands in Charlotte today.


Harriet Abigail Irwin (nee Morrison) 1828-1897

Harriet Irwin (1828 - 1897)

Her name is H...

IAWA database information for Harriet Morrison Irwin

No. 1247: Three Women Architects by John H. Lienhard

Picture from Harriet Irwin by Institute of Women and Technology

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Composed on 3/5/04