Architect Biographies

Sawyer, Gertrude

“People who don’t want a woman architect just don’t come to you. But others see the advantage of your being able to interpret their individual needs because you are a woman.”
The Sunday Star, March 25, 1956

Dedication to Details

Gertrude Sawyer wanted to be an architect from a young age. She obtained her landscape architecture degree from the University of Illinois and was one of the first women to attend the Cambridge School. Women who attended the school created a network and collaborated on later projects. Fellow student Rose Greely was one of the women Sawyer worked with later in her career. Once her education was completed, she worked most notably for Horace Peaslee.

Sawyer was known as a pioneer woman architect who paid great attention to detail. This is evident in her work at the Jefferson Patterson Estate beginning in 1932. She is most noted for her Colonial Revival designs. Although she was working in the male-dominated field of architecture, Sawyer expressed that she “was always treated fairly.” Matilda McQuaid simply put it: “She did not work harder because she was a woman, but because she was a good architect.”

Sawyer’s dedication to architecture is what brought her lasting clients like Jefferson Patterson and contracts with the government. She gained her license to practice architecture in five different jurisdictions.

Work at Jefferson Patterson Estate

In 1932 Sawyer was hired to design the buildings at Point Farm, where she established great ties with the family. She ended up designing 26 building on the property and was dubbed the “family’s architect.”  She had a knack for detail which is obvious in her sections and rigorous note taking.

Lieutenant Commander Gertrude Sawyer

Sawyer played an active role in the military from 1943 to 1945 as Lieutenant Commander for the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps also known as the Seabees. During her service she and Lt. Kathleen F. Lux designed housing to satisfy the needs of 14,000 people. Their employer, the Office of The Potomac River Naval Command, sought out women architects for their ability to understand the needs of the home. After the war she served as the only female reserve Seabee officer.

Detailed Section of Main Stair in Jefferson Patterson Residence
Maryland State Archives
Cross Section of the Jefferson Patterson Residence, at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum
Maryland State Archives
Farm Manager's Complex, Jefferson Patterson Estate at Point Farm
Jillian Storms
Tudor Hall Restoration, Leonardtown, MD (1950)
1640 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Washington DC (1969)
Alex Tucker
Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO (c.1932)
Junior League Headquarters, Washington DC (1935)
AgnosticPreachersKid (Wikipedia)

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Rose Ishbel (Isabel) Greely


1895 – Born April 2nd Tuscola, IL

1913 – Graduated from Norborne High School, MO.

1914 – Graduated from Tudor Hall, Indianapolis, Ind.

1918 – Bachelor’s from the University of Illinois (Urbana,Ill), Landscape Architecture a 4 yr degree

1922 – Graduated from Smith College’s Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape architecture with a Masters in Architecture, a 4 year degree

1922 – Worked for firm Edward Delk Kansas City, Mo. (left in 1923)

1922 – Built first house in Kansas City, Missouri (sold it in 1923)

1923 – Moved to Washington DC, began work with Horace W. Peaslee

1925 – Traveled abroad to England, France, Italy and Switzerland

1926 – Registered to practice architecture District of Columbia

1930-31 – Taught at Vassar during the summer

1932 – Hired to design Jefferson Patterson Residence

1934 – Opened her own firm in DC

1936 – Registered to practice architecture in Maryland

1938 – Registered to practice architecture in FL, OH, and PA

1939 – Becomes an AIA DC member

1941 – Hired by Johnson family to make alterations to Jubilee Farm

1943-45 – Col. Govt Serv: Lt, U.S.N., Civil Engr. Corps Seabees

1950 – Remodeled Tudor Hall, Saint Mary’s

1950 – Hired to make alterations to Sotterley Mansion

1968 – Becomes Member Emeritus of the AIA

1969 – Closed her practice and retired

1995 – Reviewed plans for Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory for conformity of design to her original buildings at Point Farm

1996 – Lived in Pomona, Los Angeles, California; Passed away February 11th


American Institute of Architects. Application For Membership. June 1939. Gertrude Sawyer’s AIA Application. 1735 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC.

“Application For Registration: Gertrude Sawyer.” State of Maryland Board of Examiners and Registration of Architects 1936: n. pag. Microform.

Berkeley, Ellen Perry., and Matilda McQuaid. Architecture: A Place for Women. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1989. Print.

Chance, Tom. “A New Addition to the Civil Engineer Corps.” All Hands July (1973): 35. Print.

National Registration of Historic Places: Inventory Of Historic Properties. “Jubilee Farm.” SM-192: Jubilee Farm (Blake Creek, Black Acre) (1968): n. pag. Web. 17 Oct. 2014. < >.

“ Point Farm: Gertrude Sawyer.” Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. The Maryland Department of Planning, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.

Irwin, Katie. “A Glimpse Into The Past.” Quinn Evans Architects. N.p., 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. < 03/glimpse-the-past>.

Dean, Ruth. “For The Seabees: Woman Architect Came to Their Aid.” The Sunday Star [Washington. DC] 25 Mar. 1956, D-10 sec.: n. pag. Print.American Institute of Architects

Reetz, Carrie. “Pioneers: Setting The Pace for Women in Agriculture.”  The Chronicle of The College of Agriculture (1995): 17. Web.

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