Theodate Pope Riddle
Born Effie Brooks Pope in Salem, Ohio, she was the only child of industrialist and art collector Alfred Atmore Pope and his wife Ada Lunette Brooks, and was a first cousin to the mother of architect Philip Johnson.
When Effie was 19, she changed her name to Theodate in honor of her grandmother Theodate Stackpole. She graduated from Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut and later hired faculty members to tutor her privately in architecture. The first woman to become a licensed architect in both New York and Connecticut, in 1926 she was appointed a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Among her best-known architectural commissions was the 1920 reconstruction of the birthplace in New York City of former President Theodore Roosevelt. In the fall of 2014, Pope's work on that site was recognized in a competition, Built by Women New York City, launched by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation to identify outstanding and diverse sites and spaces designed, engineered, and built by women.
1898-1907 Alfred Pope House, Hill-Stead, Farmington, CT (with McKim, Mead and White)
1906-1909 Westover School, Middlebury, CT
1911-1914 Joseph P. Chamberlain Estate, Highfield, Middlebury, CT
1913-1914 Mrs. Charles O. Gates Estate, Dormer House, Locust Valley, Long Island, NY
1915 Worker's Housing, Farmington, CT
1918-1927 Avon Old Farms School, Avon, CT
1919-1922 Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace (reconstruction, interior restoration, design of adjacent building) New York, NY
Her papers are archived at Hill-Stead Museum, Avon Old Farms School and the Westover School Archives.
On May 1, 1915, she boarded the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania as a First Class passenger, together with her maid Miss Emily Robinson and Professor Edwin W. Friend, a fellow Farmington resident. After the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, Pope, Robinson, and Friend made for the lifeboats. The Lusitania's crew was inexperienced at launching the boats, and Pope saw one lifeboat tip all of its passengers into the sea. Pope and Friend decided that it would be a better idea to jump from the deck. Before jumping, Theodate turned to her maid saying, "Come, Robinson."
In the water, Pope was buffeted by debris and struggling swimmers. She was struck on the head by debris. "People all around me were fighting, striking and struggling," she later recalled. Then a man "insane with fright" made "a sudden jump and landed clean on my shoulders, believing I could support him."
She lost consciousness in the water, and when she was rescued, she was initially placed among the dead until another rescued passenger recognized signs of life in her, although it took two hours before she could be revived. Neither Robinson nor Professor Friend survived.
She died on August 30, 1946 at her home in Farmington.
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