Mary Rockwell Hook

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Mary Rockwell Hook
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Born (1877-09-08)September 8, 1877
Junction City, Kansas
Died September 8, 1978(1978-09-08) (aged 101)
Nationality United States
Alma mater Wellesley College
Art Institute of Chicago
Atelier Auburtin at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris
Occupation Architect

Mary Rockwell, Mary Rockwell Hook,

Hook and Remington
Projects Pine Mountain Settlement School

Mary Rockwell Hook (September 8, 1877 – September 8, 1978) was an American architect and a pioneer for women in architecture. She worked principally from Kansas City, Missouri but designed throughout the United States. She was denied admission to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) because of her gender.

But she did obtain recognition for her work, including by the AIA, later, on her 100th birthday. And according to an article in the newsletter of the International Archive of Women in Architecture, "Mary Rockwell Hook will be remembered, not because she was a woman working in a 'man's field,' but because she was a successful designer who made her mark in the field of architecture."[1]

Between 1910 - 1930, there were actually five women who worked as architects in the Kansas City area. Hook was the only one to achieve any wider recognition.[2]:24


Personal life[edit]

Born in Junction City, Kansas, Mary was the third of five daughters of Bertrand Rockwell (1844-1930), a captain of the Army and successful grain merchant and banker, and Julia Marshall Snyder (1850-1947), a vital woman who was the first historian for the parish known today as Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri, in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1906, the Rockwell family moved to Kansas City. Mary Rockwell married Inghram D. Hook (1883-1973), an attorney, in 1921.[3] The couple adopted two boys, Eugene and Edward (Dick). Mary died on her 101st birthday.


Mary Rockwell (later Hook) graduated from Wellesley College in 1900. According to Hook's autobiography, she decided to become an architect after a 1902 family trip abroad:

"It was during this trip home from the Philippines that I decided someone needed to improve the design of the buildings used by our government abroad. I made up my mind to go home and study architecture."[4]

In 1903, she enrolled as the only woman in her class in the architecture department at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gender discrimination[edit]

In 1905, Rockwell (later Hook) went to Paris to study in the atelier of Marcel Auburtin, an admirer of her sister Kitty, as a prerequisite for being admitted at the École des Beaux-Arts.[1][5] As a female student in a predominantly male school, Rockwell (Hook) faced gender discrimination. In 1906, after her entrance examinations at the École des Beaux-Arts, French male students intended to fling buckets of water at her as she fled through the courtyard.[1] [4] She did not pass the exam nor repeated it as other students did and thus did not study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.[5] Instead, she explored French architecture on bicycle trips with her sister.

The Kansas City Star later wrote that the era was one "when male architects were openly antagonistic to women joining the profession."[1]

Discrimination did not end with her training. When she applied for her first job in an architecture office in Kansas City, she was rejected because "you can't swear at women and they can't climb all over full sized details."[4] However, the next firm gladly employed her, although without a salary because her father did not allow her to be paid.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) denied Hook's membership because of her gender. Upon her 100th birthday in 1977, however, the professional organization presented her with a plaque for distinguished service. Kansas City residents further celebrated the occasion by touring famous homes that she had designed locally.[1]

Career and impact[edit]

Pine Mountain Settlement School[edit]

Around 1913, when Katherine Pettit and Ethel De Long Zande were preparing for the foundation of Pine Mountain Settlement School in the Appalachian Mountains, Ethel wrote Mary Rockwell asking her to plan its campus. By then, she had successfully designed several houses. Hook later described Pine Mountain as "an 18th-century world" where "there is no village to mar the peaceful landscape, where trains, motors, and chewing gum have not penetrated."[1]

After studying the area, the three agreed that lower lands should be used for farming to feed the students while steeper lands would be used for construction. Public buildings would be central, and cottages would line the edges of the valley.[1]

Rockwell's (later Hook) first project for the campus construction was the renovation of a dilapidated log cabin called Old Log House. She next designed a log house for Pettit. Hook worked with local resources in her designs, including chestnut, poplar, oak, and boulders. Even though a mill was installed on campus, it took more than a year to cut and dry lumber for Laurel House, the school's dining hall.[1]

Hook remained involved with the school as a member of the Board of Trustees until she was over 90 years old.[1] Pine Mountain Settlement School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now a National Historic Landmark.[6]

Buildings at Pine Mountain School[edit]

1914 Old Log House Restoration, Miss Pettit's House, Laurel House,

1919 Office

1922-24 Chapel

Not Dated Science Building with Printshop and Workshop, "Open House" for Mary Rockwell, Ethel McCullough, and Margaret Butler.

1940 Replacement of Laurel House after a fire.

Hook and Remington[edit]

In 1923, Hook returned to Kansas City and started the Hook and Remington architectural firm with partner Eric Douglas Macwilliam Remington (1893-1975).[3] They worked together until 1932 when Remington settled in San Francisco. [7]

White House[edit]

Despite blindness in her later years, Hook imagined designs and offered ideas to modify the White House and other buildings.[1]

Architectural style[edit]

Kansas City[edit]

Mary Rockwell Hook's Kansas City designs date from as early as 1908, with her most eminent work completed during the 1920s and 1930s in the Sunset Hills area. Many of her designs in Sunset Hills pay tribute to the architectural styles she witnessed during childhood trips to Europe and East Asia. Hook's Italianate architecture was evidenced by her synthesis of brick, stone, and antique materials with tiles, frescoes, and leaded panes. Hook's own home, which she designed in 1925, is one example of an Italianate residence.[1] Nine of Hook's works in Kansas City were studied in a National Register of Historic Places "Thematic Resources" study and were listed on the National Register with extensive descriptions and analysis[8].[2]

Works in Kansas City on the National Register include[edit]

  1. House at 54 E. 53rd Terrace, 54 E. 53rd Terr., Kansas City, Missouri, 1908;
  2. Bertrand Rockwell House, 1004 W. 52nd St., Kansas City, Missouri, 1908-09;
  3. Emily Rockwell Love House, 5029 Sunset Dr., Kansas City, Missouri, 1915;
  4. Robert Ostertag House, 5030 Summit St., Kansas City, Missouri, 1922;
  5. "Pink House", 5012 Summit St., Kansas City, Missouri, 1922;
  6. House at 5011 Sunset Drive, 5011 Sunset Dr., Kansas City, Missouri, 1922-23;
  7. Floyd Jacobs House, 5050 Sunset Dr., Kansas City, Missouri, 1925;
  8. Mary Rockwell Hook House, 4940 Summit St., Kansas City, Missouri, 1925-27;
  9. Four Gates Farm / Marvin Gates Residence, at 13001 Little Blue Road, RFD #3, Kansas City, Missouri, 1925-27.

Many of her early houses were commissioned for members of her family, however, she later also received several commissions from non-family members.


While the Rockwell family traveled widely for the enrichment of their daughters' education, Bertrand Rockwell sought the mild climate of Northern California to improve his health on the advice of his brother-in-law, a medical doctor in Santa Rosa. There, Mary's sister Florence met and married James Edwards. Around 1908, Mary built a house for them in Santa Rosa.[9] The asymmetrical house was designed in the First Bay Area Tradition.[10] For many years, the architect of the house was unknown and assumed to be Julia Morgan[11] or Brainerd Jones of Petaluma.[12] The house is listed under the name of the second owner as the Wasserman House on the National Register of Historic Places.[13] However, the listing does not include the well-documented findings of architectural historian Jeffrey Elliott such as the names of the first owners, James and Florence Edwards, nor the architect's name, Mary Rockwell (Hook).[14] The house was transformed into an office building with careful attention to the original design.

The second house in California was designed at the height of her career in 1926 as an impressive French mansion called “Le Soleil” for Francis and Katherine Crosby in Woodside, an hour south of San Francisco.[15][16] Francis Crosby was the president of the Key System transportation service and owner of several small telephone companies. The design of “Le Soleil” was a collaboration of three Rockwell sisters: Mary Rockwell Hook and her partner Eric Douglas Remington were the architects; Katherine Rockwell Crosby, the owner, designed the interior, acquired the furniture and designed the French gardens, and Bertha Rockwell Venanzi, an artist living in Italy, painted floral murals in the grand ballroom. The estate has many formal rooms for entertaining with requisite kitchen and cellar rooms, a total of seven bedroom suites, and a garage for nine cars, all on a large property of several beautifully landscaped acres with a pool and tennis court.

Works in California[edit]

1908 James and Florence Edwards House, 930 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, also known as the Wasserman House;

1926 Francis and Katherine Crosby House “Le Soleil”, 320 Harcross Road, Woodside.

Siesta Key[edit]

After purchasing 55 acres (220,000 m2) of Gulf-front property on Siesta Key, Florida in 1935, Hook developed part of the area with her designs.[17] In Whispering Sands, she designed a resort hotel and vacation homes as a sanctuary for writers and artists.[18] Another subdivision called Sandy Hook was intended to be a residential area for architects and incubator for the Sarasota School of Architecture.[19][20] In 1952, Hook developed another area called Sandy Cove[1] and designed her own octagon-shaped home where she spent the last years of her life.[21][22]

Works on Siesta Key[edit]

1936 and later Whispering Sands: Resort Hotel, Glass House for guests, two vacation houses, a house for her family

1945 Whispering Sands: House for her son Dick and his family

1945 Sandy Hook: House by Hook for herself and her husband and houses by other architects connected to the Sarasota School of Architecture (such as Paul Rudolph) and plans for a small architectural school that was never realized.

1952 and later Sandy Cove development with the design of two winter cottages off Ocean Boulevard and her own octagon-shaped home where she died.

Architectural innovations[edit]

Employing natural terrain[edit]

Mary Rockwell Hook was the first Kansas City architect to incorporate natural formations in her designs.[23] When she continued this style on Siesta Key, local newspaper Sarasota Herald-Tribune described Hook as "bringing the outdoors in, and many of the homes she designed on Siesta Key reflected the trend long before it became popular."[1]

Solar energy[edit]

In Siesta Key, Hook used solar power to heat water for the resort hotel Whispering Sands as early as 1937.[3]

Other firsts[edit]

Mary Rockwell Hook was the first architect in Kansas City to use cast-in-place concrete walls. Additionally, one of her house designs was the first in Kansas City to include a private swimming pool, while another was the first to have an attached garage.[1]

Mary Rockwell Hook used salvaged materials in her designs as for example marble tiles salvaged from a hotel in Topeka.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "IAWA Spotlight: Mary Rockwell Hook". International Archive of Women in Architecture. Autumn 1991. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  2. ^ a b Sherry Piland and Elaine Ryder (June 29, 1983). "Residential Structures by Mary Rockwell Hook TR" (PDF). National Park Service. 
  3. ^ a b c "Mary Rockwell Hook (1877-1978) Papers (KC0010)". Western Historical Manuscript Collection - Kansas City. 2006-06-01. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  4. ^ a b c Hook, Mary Rockwell (1970). This and That. Kansas City, Missouri, and Sarasota, Florida: Mary Rockwell Hook. pp. 1–67. 
  5. ^ a b Clausen, Meredith (June 2010). "The Ecole Des Beaux-Arts: Toward a Gendered History". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 69 (2): pp.153–161. 
  6. ^ "About PMSS". Pine Mountain Settlement School. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  7. ^ Remington, Eric Douglass Macwilliam (1975-12-22). "Obituary". The Kansas City Times. 
  8. ^ National Register of Historic Places. "Residential Structures in Kansas City by Mary Rockwell Hook" (PDF). 
  9. ^ Elliott, Jeffrey (November 2013). "The House that Mary Built". Santa Rosa History. 
  10. ^ Gebhard, David; et al. (1973). The Guide to Architecture in San Francisco and Northern California. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. p. 565. ISBN 0-87905-202-3. 
  11. ^ Boutelle, Sara Holmes (1988). Julia Morgan Architect. New York: Abbeville Press. 
  12. ^ Weinstein, David (02/18/2006). "The man who built Petaluma/Brainerd Jones designed much of what is now the city's historic section". Retrieved 2017-06-01.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ "National Register of Historic Places". 
  14. ^ Elliott, Jeffrey (2013 November). "The House that Mary Built". Santa Rosa History. Retrieved 2007-05-04.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ C., W.C. (October 1933). "The Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Francis H. Crosby, near Woodside". The Peninsulan. 2 (1): p.12–13 and 28–29. 
  16. ^ "320 Harcross Road". 
  17. ^ Wery, Louis. "Mary Rockwell Hook". realty website. 
  18. ^ Bergen, Brooksie (1994-4-27). "Mary Hook brought her skill, love to Siesta". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help);
  19. ^ Howey, John (1995). The Sarasota School of Architecture, 1941-1966. MIT Press. ISBN 0262082403. 
  20. ^ "Sarasota School of Architecture". 
  21. ^ Stockbridge-Pratt, Dorothy (January 4, 1952). "Sandy Hook attracting Redevelopers". Sarasota Herald -Tribune. 
  22. ^ "Mary Rockwell Hook". Find a Grave. 
  23. ^ Muldowny, Lorrie. "Siesta Key Architecture a Natural". Sarasota History Alive. 
  24. ^ Billhartz Gregorian, Cynthia (October 18, 2015). "Mary Rockwell Hook's home blends Italian ornate with reclaimed salvage". The Kansas City Star.