Louise Blanchard Bethune

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Louise Blanchard Bethune
Born(1856-07-21)July 21, 1856
DiedDecember 18, 1915(1915-12-18) (aged 59)
PracticeBuffalo, New York
BuildingsHotel Lafayette

Louise Blanchard Bethune (July 21, 1856 – December 18, 1913)[1] was the first American woman known to have worked as a professional architect. She was born in Waterloo, New York. Blanchard worked primarily in Buffalo, New York and partnered with her husband at Bethune, Bethune & Fuchs.

Buffalo Meter Company Building, renamed Bethune Hall to honor Bethune, although she was not the building's architect

Her work includes the Hotel Lafayette. The Buffalo Meter Company Building was renamed Bethune Hall in her honor by the University at Buffalo.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Bethune was born Jennie Louise Blanchard in Waterloo, New York in 1856. The Blanchard family moved to Buffalo, New York when she was a child. She graduated from the Buffalo Central High School in 1874. In 1881, she wed Canadian Robert A. Bethune (1855-1915), also an architect. Together they had one son, Charles William Bethune in 1883.[3]

Bethune reportedly purchased the first woman's bicycle to go on sale in Buffalo. She was an active member of the Women's Wheel and Athletic Club.[4]

According to the Buffalo Spree, Bethune had feminist leanings.[3]


Bethune planned on going to architecture school at Cornell. Instead, in 1876, she took a job working as a draftsman in the office of Richard A. Waite and F.W. Caulkins, well known architects in Buffalo, New York. At the time, it was more common to learn architecture while working for a firm rather than in a classroom.

In 1881, after five years in Waite's office, she opened an independent office partnering with Robert Bethune in Buffalo,[5] earning herself the title of the nation's first professional woman architect.

Bethune was elected a member of the Western Association of Architects (WAA) in 1885. She later served a term as a vice president of the W.A.A. She was named the first female associate of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) in 1888 and in 1889, she became its first female fellow.[5][6]

In 1891, she refused to compete in a design competition for the Women's Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago because men were paid $10,000 to design buildings for the fair while the women got only $1,000.[5]

Bethune designed mostly industrial and public buildings. She disliked working on residential projects because they paid poorly.[5] She is especially known for designing public schools. Sadly, much of her work has since been demolished.

Her best-known design and masterpiece is the neoclassical Hotel Lafayette, which was commissioned for $1 million and completed in 1904. It has since undergone a $35 million restoration, completed in 2012 by developer Rocco Termini.[7] The Bethune firm also designed the Denton, Cottier & Daniels music store, one of the first buildings in the United States to utilize a steel frame and poured concrete slabs. Three other Bethune buildings are still standing today: the Iroquois Door Plant Company warehouse; the large Chandler Street Complex for the Buffalo Weaving Company; and the Witkop and Holmes Headquarters (1901), which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.[8] She was involved of the design of one hundred fifty buildings in the Buffalo and New England areas during her career.[9]

Bethune retired in 1908 and died on December 18, 1913, at the age of 57.[10] In 1910, between the time she retired and the time she died, there were 50 women working professionally as architects.


  • "Influence of Women on Architecture." American Architect and Building News (January 1, 1893): 3–4.


The former Buffalo Meter Company Building was renamed Bethune Hall in her honor, when it housed the Department of Art along with the School of Architecture and Planning of the University at Buffalo.[11] This building was purchased in June 2011 by the Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation, who redeveloped the building into 87 apartments with Carmina Wood Morris, PC. Residents began to move into the building in July 2013, and it was renamed Bethune Lofts.[12] The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, received LEED Silver certification, and received the Preservation League of NYS Excellence in Historic Preservation Award in 2014.[13]

In 2013, Bethune's grave was given a new marker, which states,
JULY 21, 1856
DECEMBER 18, 1915" [14]

She is interred in Buffalo's Forest Lawn Cemetery.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Helen., Searing (1998). Equal partners : men and women principals in contemporary architectural practice. Smith College. Museum of Art., Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art., Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Northampton, Mass.: Smith College Museum of Art. ISBN 0873910508. OCLC 39903039.
  2. ^ Byrnes, Mark (June 21, 2013). "Remembering America's First Female Architect". CityLab (web magazine). The Atlantic. Archived from the original on November 22, 2014. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Fox, Austin. "Louise Blanchard Bethune: Buffalo Feminist and America's First Woman Architect". No. Summer 1986. Buffalo Spree. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  4. ^ Ladies of the Wheel, Buffalo Morning Express, August 14, 1892. Reproduced online by fultonhistory.com. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
  5. ^ a b c d "Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1913) America's First Female Professional Architect". Women in Architecture. University of Illinois. Archived from the original on July 6, 2004. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  6. ^ Maureen Meister (4 November 2014). Arts and Crafts Architecture: History and Heritage in New England. University Press of New England. pp. 235–. ISBN 978-1-61168-664-7.
  7. ^ Cantillon, Sharon (23 January 2018). "A Closer Look: Hotel @ the Lafayette". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  8. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 7/07/14 through 7/11/14. National Park Service. 2014-07-18.
  9. ^ "Pioneering Women of American Architecture". Pioneering Women of American Architecture. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  10. ^ Franklin, Sydney (November 4, 2021). "Overlooked No More: Louise Blanchard Bethune, Who Changed the Face of Buffalo". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 7, 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  11. ^ Jennifer Walkowski (April 2010). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Buffalo Meter Company Building". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-02-21. See also: "Accompanying 16 photos". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29.
  12. ^ Nussbaumer, Newell (24 May 2013). "Leasing Begins as Bethune Lofts Nears Completion". Buffalo Rising. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Bethune Lofts". Carmina Wood Morris, DPC. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2014-01-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ HSU, Charlotte (19 December 2013). "Remembering Louise Bethune". University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Retrieved 23 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blank, Carla; Martin, Tania (2014). Storming the old boys' citadel : two pioneer women architects of nineteenth century North America. Montreal: Baraka Books. ISBN 9781771860321. OCLC 899568373.
  • "Women and Architecture." Inland Architect and News Record 17 (March 1981): 20-21; reprinted in Inland Architect 27 (July–August 1983): 46–47.

External links[edit]