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
École des Beaux-Arts
Occupation Architect
Practice 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 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 daughter of Bertrand Rockwell (1844-1930), a 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]


Mary Rockwell Hook graduated from Wellesley College in 1900. In 1903, she enrolled as the only woman in her class in the architecture department at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1905, Hook went to Paris to study under Marcel Auburtin at the École des Beaux-Arts.[1]

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."[1]

Gender discrimination[edit]

As a female student in a predominantly male school, Hook faced gender discrimination. In 1906, during her final examinations at a studio of École des Beaux-Arts, French male students flung buckets of water at her as she fled through the courtyard.[1]

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 degree. The American Institute of Architects denied Hook admission 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, Ethel de Long Zande wrote Mary Rockwell Hook asking her to plan its campus. 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 school while steeper lands would be used for construction. Public buildings would be central, and cottages would line the edges of the valley.[1]

Hook's 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 building.[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[4] and is now a National Historic Landmark.[5]

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]

White House[edit]

Despite blindness in her later years, Hook imagined designs and offered ideas to modify the White House.[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.[2][4]

Works in Kansas City include:

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

Siesta Key[edit]

After purchasing 55 acres (220,000 m2) of Gulf-front property on Siesta Key, Florida, Hook developed part of the area with her designs, such as an outdoor chapel for St. Boniface Church. She designed Whispering Sands to be a sanctuary for writers and artists, and she designed houses for Sandy Hook, an architecturally creative resident area. Hook designed her octagon-shaped home for Sandy Hook.[1]

Architectural innovations[edit]

Employing natural terrain[edit]

Mary Rockwell Hook was the first Kansas City architect to incorporate natural formations in her designs. 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 a resort as early as 1937.[3]

Other firsts[edit]

Mary Rockwell Hook was also 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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "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 d e f g h i j k National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  5. ^ "About PMSS". Pine Mountain Settlement School. Retrieved 2008-03-23.