Architect Biographies

Smith, Chloethiel Woodard

“I’m an architect with a capital A. Being a woman has nothing to do with it.”
Old Oregon Alumni Publication, 1979

Chloethiel Woodard Smith, FAIA, was the sixth woman inaugurated into the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows and one of the first women to have a nationally recognized reputation in American architecture. At the peak of her practice in Washington DC, she led the country’s largest woman-owned architecture firm.

Smith made a point of never casting herself as a “Woman Architect” and was adamantly against being defined by her gender. “She would walk into a room full of male developers and put them in their place,” chuckled Arthur Cotton Moore, a distinguished Washington DC architect who worked for her in the 1960s. “She was a strong, unique figure. There really was not anyone else like her.”

Smith played a large role in shaping the urban fabric of post-war Washington DC. The redevelopment of its southwest quadrant was among her most notable large-scale, urban planning commissions. Less known are her contributions to architecture in Maryland, most in the suburbs surrounding Washington DC, but some as far as Annapolis and St. Michaels.

In Rockville, Smith was the architect of choice for the Chestnut Lodge Research and Therapy Center for Children (now demolished). She designed its recreational and occupational therapy complex to be expandable with standardized wall panels, steel frame structure, and exposed web beams that created open, flexible interiors. Large areas of glazing alleviated a sense of confinement among the patients and encouraged participation in the outdoor activities. As described in Architectural Forum in 1955, the recreation center was an “outstanding” example of a health facility created through close collaboration of architects and hospital administrators.

In the early 1950’s, the firm where she partnered developed simple, quick-to-construct tract homes in rapidly expanding Silver Spring and Bethesda. But it is her custom home designs that truly showcased her modern sensibilities. Elizabeth A. Creveling writes of one early custom home: “There is no attempt to recall a past style; rather a new domestic vision through clean lines and simple materials.” It’s that vision as an architect that stood her apart with a capital A.

Forestvale Tract Houses, Tilton Drive, Silver Spring, MD, 1952
Google Street Views, 2012
Hershfang Residence, Chain Bridge Road, Washington DC, 1951
House Beautiful Magazine, April 1951
Chestnut Lodge Recreation Center, Rockville, MD, 1955; Additions 1958 & 1972 (now demolished)
Image courtesy City of Rockville Historic District Commission, 2004


1910 – Born Chloethiel Blanche Woodard on February 2 to Oliver & Coy Woodard in Peoria, IL

1922 – Family moves to Portland, OR and builds their home, sparking her early interest in architecture

1928-1932 – Attends University of Oregon and graduates with high honors & Bachelor of Architecture

1929-1931 – Works summers as a junior draftsman in Portland and Seattle

1933 – Receives Master of Architecture in City Planning, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

1933-1935 – Works as Design Associate in the studio of Henry Wright in New York

1935-1939 – Moves to the Washington DC; Works for the Rental Housing Division, Federal Housing Authority; Rises to Senior Architect – Chief of Planning & Research for Large Scale Housing Division

1938 – Receives license to practice architecture in Washington DC

1939 – Co-curates exhibition: Washington, Planned City Without a Plan

1940-1941 – Marries Bromley Keables Smith, news editor for Washington Daily News who joins Foreign Service and is posted to Montreal, Canada; Smith creates exhibit City for Living while working in Montreal

1942 – Becomes a Professor of Architecture and City Planning at University of San Andres while husband is stationed in La Paz, Bolivia

1944 – Receives Guggenheim Fellowship; Travels through South America studying urban planning history

1946 – Returns to Washington DC ;Joins Berla and Abel Architects; Becomes an AIA DC member; Son, Bromley Keables Smith, Jr born

1947 – Project: Rioch Residence, Chevy Chase wins Washington Board of Trade Architecture Award

1948 – Project: Miller Residence, Rockville

1949 – Projects:  Rowen Residence “Upside Down House,” Chevy Chase

1951 – Project: House Beautiful features Hershfang Residence, Washington DC; Serves as director for the Housing Research Foundation

1951-1956 – Becomes Partner in the firm of Keyes, Smith, Satterlee & Lethbridge

1952 – Daughter Susanne Woodard Smith,born

1952  – Projects: Tract homes Forestvale, Silver Spring & High Point, Bethesda

1953 – Project: Bullard Residence, Annapolis

1955 – Projects: Dr. Dyrud Home Office, Chevy Chase; Lewis Residence, Potomac; Recreational Center at Chestnut Lodge Research Center and Therapy Hospital for Children, Rockville (Additions 1958 & 1972)

1956-1963 – Principal in firm of Satterlee & Smith

1957 – Washington Board of Trade Award for Architecture for Wilmott Lewis Stable, Potomac

1958 – Project: Washburn Residence, St. Michaels

1959 – Receives license to practice architecture in Maryland

1959-1963 – Project: Capitol Park Apartments & Townhouses, SW, Washington, DC

1960 – Elevated to AIA College of Fellows; National AIA Award of Merit for Capitol Park Project

1963-1982 – Directs firm of Chloethiel Woodard Smith & Associated Architects

1965 – Project: Addition to St. Andrews Episcopal Church, College Park

1965-1968 – Project: Washington Channel Bridge Proposal, Washington DC

1966 – Projects: Pension Building Use Study for Washington DC (becomes National Building Museum); Bindeman Residence, Bethesda; Spa Creek Townhouse Condominiums, Annapolis

1967-1976 – Serves on the U.S. Commission of the Fine Arts

1969 – Projects: Wilde Lake High Rise, Columbia; Consolidated Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Beltsville

1970 – September issue of Life Magazine features Smith in “Women Arise” where she rejects the Women’s Liberation movement; Project: Addition and renovation to Smith Residence, Chevy Chase

1983 – Retires from practice

1985 – YWCA votes her their “Woman of the Year”

1987 – Husband passes away

1989 – Receives AIA DC Centennial Medal for “continuous service to the chapter, the community and the profession”

1992 – Passes away on December 30 in Hampton, SC at age 82

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