“Building a home without an architect is as foolish as having an operation without a surgeon—he’s likely to take out the wrong thing.”
Ida Brown Webster graduated from MIT’s architecture program and won its coveted Chandler Prize in Architecture in 1923. She settled New York City and became one of the first female partners in an architecture firm in 1933. By 1947, she had established her own practice with colleague Saul Edelbaum. In addition to commercial and institutional projects, their work included large-scale middle-income projects, union-sponsored housing, and community-based social service centers. She was a member of two enormously influential community non-profit organizations focusing on education, policy research for public housing, and community preservation. A smaller portion of their work was creating custom homes for prominent Jewish merchant families seeking Modernist houses.
In Maryland, her tour de force is the exquisite Eliasberg Residence nestled on a 6 acre wooded lot in Owings Mills. Webster designed this residence for Jackie and Lou Eliasberg, Jr. in the late 1940s and it remained their family home until Lou’s death 52 years later. The couple fell in love with the open modern spaces, the attention to detail, and the use of warm, natural materials. High clerestories create light-filled spaces and views of the treetops. Jackie spoke highly of Webster’s design and technical proficiency. Jackie noted that there was ample built-in storage providing a place for everything. The casework, fabricated in New York, fit precisely when installed. Jackie said of the home: “It was the most perfect house to raise a family…So comfortable, but not ostentatious…Her attention to fine craftsmanship, elegant materials, and refined details was appreciated every day.”
Webster was listed as a Maryland registered architect in 1957 and several local newspapers of the period shared her thoughts on home design. If you know of other residences she may have designed in Maryland, please contact Baltimore Architecture Foundation.