Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first American woman to work as a professional architect. Although she had plans to study at Cornell, Louise abandoned that idea and instead learned architecture during her stint as a draftsman in the office of Richard A. Waite, a prominent Buffalo, New York, architect. She worked for Waite for five years and then partnered with architect Robert Bethune to open an independent Buffalo office in 1881 when she was 25 years old. Louise and Robert married two months later. Together they had one son and built a flourishing business.
Louise designed several different types of buildings many of them industrial and public facilities and was known for some of the city's best hotels and schools. Unfortunately, many of her buildings have been demolished in the name of progress, but some of her commissions still stand. One of the most noted is the neoclassical Lafayette Hotel that opened in 1904 and for which she received a $1 million commission. She despised working on private home plans, not only because they paid poorly, but also because they didn't provide much of a challenge. A Buffalo music store that she designed was one of the first buildings in the United States to be constructed with a steel frame and poured concrete slabs.
In 1891, she refused to compete for the design of the Woman's Building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago because of the different way in which male and female architects were treated. Male architects were paid $10,000 to design buildings for the fair, but women had to compete for the honor. The ones who won would receive only a $1,000 prize. In 1888, Louise became the first female associate of the American Institute of Architects and became a fellow a year later. Louise was born on July 21, 1856 and died in 1913.
***Photo from First Women
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