Watercolors by Eleanor Manning O'Connor
From the Howe, Manning & Almy Papers (MC 9)
Drawing was considered an essential skill for late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century architects. MIT-trained Eleanor Manning (class of 1906) created fine plans and drawings for the buildings she designed and spent vacations painting architectural subjects she found intriguing. The undated, untitled watercolors reproduced here may be from her 1912 European excursion, cut short by an offer to join in partnership with Boston architect Lois Lilley Howe (MIT, 1890) in 1913. (The two were joined by a third MIT alumna, Mary Almy, in 1926.)
The architectural firm that grew into Howe, Manning & Almy was started in 1895 by Howe. Between 1895 and the firm's dissolution in 1937, the "lady architects" completed approximately five hundred projects, most of which still stand, including a number of private dwellings in Cambridge. Houses and other structures designed by the firm showed the influence of traditional English and colonial architecture, but adapted such styles to accommodate the needs of individual clients for size, floor plans, ventilation, light, and integration into a specific setting. The Howe, Manning & Almy collection (MC 9) in the Institute Archives includes reports, paintings, drawings, blueprints, photographs, diaries, notes, correspondence, and other materials illuminating the lives and work of the three MIT alumnae.
MIT is generally acknowledged to have had the first collegiate department of architecture in the United States. Although Building and Architecture was among the six courses offered when MIT's first regular sessions began in 1865, the full-fledged program in architectural training began in 1868, under the direction of William R. Ware and based on his Outline of a Course of Architectural Instruction (pdf). By 1900, eleven women had received bachelor's degrees in architecture.
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Object of the Month: April 2000; January 2008