Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Genius of Leila Ross Wilburn: Houses and Words of Wisdom from Georgia's First Female Architect

There is nothing I like better and I don't believe I'd be satisfied with any other job in the world."
-Leila Ross Wilburn

I have a confession to make-- there are days when I'm puttering around in the kitchen making dinner and I think, what in the world am I going to blog about this week?  After an action-packed weekend, this week is a little slow. I think about my collection of still-unshared photos, websites I adore, but I want real inspiration.  Every once in a while, I get truly lucky and bam!  I find something I find fascinating that I think is worthy of sharing with you.  This is one of those times!

Leila Ross Wilburn is one of the first female architects of Atlanta (Registered Architect#29). She attended Agnes Scott College (my mother's alma mater!)  and, following some private instruction (she never received formal training),  joined Benjamin R. Padgett and Son as a trainee.  She started her own firm in 1909.  Lila Ross Wilburn designed both single family homes and apartments and published numerous pattern books, which can be seen here, courtesy of Agnes Scott College Archives and the Library of Congress.  Perhaps her best-known work is in Decatur's MAK Historic District (examples shown below).  

Admittedly, this topic has been done before- which I discovered while researching her.  I'm not going to attempt to re-create Terry's post- so for more pictures and a whole lot more information, visit the Architecture Tourist here.  What I'm most excited about is the collection of her quotes, interspersed throughout this post, in italics.

I happened upon Wilburn, while perusing one of my favorite my recent discoveries- the website Historic Homes for Sale.  I was researching a property I found for $49,000 (I know!!!) and found the Collier-Palmer House.
Historic real estate listing for sale in Montezuma, GA

photos via web listing
R.C. Collier commissioned Leila Ross Wilburn to design the home in the early 1950s for his son and young family.

Houses are built to live in as well as to look at

Another great property on the market is in Druid Hills, on North Decatur Rd.
photos via real estate listing

Well designed plans make a well-built house worth its cost

And the last one I'll feature for sale is in the MAK Historic District, 413 Adams Street.

Maple is the best wood for kitchen floors

In addition to this great house, I wanted to share some quotes from Wilburn's plan books- pure genius- interspersed with some of the homes featured on MAK Historic District's website.

205 Adams Street

Convenience, cost and beauty should all influence your home selection

310 Adams Street

Get Architect's plans, few Contractors are also good Architects

416 Adams Street

A cheap "drop lot" is often most costly in the end

107 Kings Highway

The design, not the amount of material, draws forth favorable comment

351 McDonough

Don't let over-confidence in your own ability spoil your home

237 Kings Highway

Shrubbery properly placed makes the new home vastly more attractive

ppa.jpg (38396 bytes)
Piedmont Park Apartments via City of Atlanta

Plans save time, and time saved means money saved


  1. Love all the quotes with the gorgeous photos! Didn't know this history, so thanks for posting about it....always a delightful read when it involves women architects.

    By the way, we made the decision to view having a child as "She came to live with us, not us with her!"

  2. She started her own firm one hundred years ago this year, so it's nice that you celebrate her work! Must have been a bit tough starting her own architect firm as a woman in the US? (I believe your country was a bit conservative back then?) Very cool, and the houses are lovely!

  3. The quotes are fun..., you can really feel "the age of the language".

  4. This was a very interesting post.
    The Druid Hills house is lovely.

  5. This is such great advice! These houses are all lovely.

  6. I adore the Collier Home. Very classic! Fun post.

  7. I drove the MAK streets yesterday. It's easy to impress with a mansion and Ms. Wilburn designed a few big ones. But most are family sized. With a few modern touches they will satisfy many generations. They look just as good today as they did when they were built. I'm sure Ms. Wilburn knew that.

  8. Oh, what a great post on a woman architect! Love the quotes husband and I will be doing a pretty major renovation to our your post was good to read! Take care, Caroline

  9. What amazing homes. I just want to keep looking at them. I totally have felt like you before. Somedays I wake up and have no clue what I'm going to blog about and completely panic! I picked quite the topic today. It was great to learn more about that amazing business woman.

  10. Thanks for posting these, Emmie. Brings back some great memories of my days in the ATL.

  11. this was such a fun post for me to read since I use to live in Atlanta. I know I recognize the Collier-Palmer house, is it on Northside Drive/

  12. I love these homes. It's fun to see the inside and the out!

  13. Thank you for all the fabulous comments! I just thought her quotes were so fantastic.

    Blue hydrangea- the Collier-Palmer house is actually in Montezuma, Georgia but I wouldn't be surprised if houses on Northside were designed or influenced by Wilburn.

  14. Enjoyed so much. I just discovered that my grandmother's house in Hartwell is a Wilburn design. She always spoke of a female Atlanta architect, but I only discovered LRW today.AND I found the house plans: number 71 in her third book, Brick and Colonial Homes. Does anyone know the its publication date? Our house was built in 1918. I wonder if it pre-dates the book.

  15. Anon, Let me introduce myself. I am Susan Hunter and wrote the first article about Wilburn in the Winter 1979-80 Atlanta Historical Journalunder the name Susan Hunter Smith: "Women Architects in Atlanta, 1895-1979." I am delighted you discovered the drawings ofyour grandmother's home in Hartwell. I am writing a biography of Leila Ross Wilburn and would appreciate your sharing the information about this house for my research. Can you forward me the following information: Scans of the plans, street address and current photo. thanks in advance.


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