But was she any good?
She was better than just good. She designed arts and crafts houses in all styles in Atlanta's most desirable older neighborhoods: Decatur, Midtown, Chandler Park, Ansley Park. Some are 100 years old."They are still prized by their owners and praised by architects and scholars today."
How about this 100 year old front porch? (I took all of these un-posed, un-fluffed, candid pictures this week on just 3 streets in Decatur, Georgia. These are all lived-in homes.)
Ms. Willburn wasn't directly involved with many specific houses. Primarily she published pattern books. Beginning about 1915 she published at least 7 of them with titles like "Southern Homes and Bungalows," "Homes in Good Taste," and "Brick and Colonial Homes." You could buy the plans. Prices started at $30.00. See all the pattern books here.
The little squares charm my sock off.
These plan books have pictures of at least 79 built homes. That's quite an accomplishment for any architect, of any gender, of any period. But we really don't know how many more or where they all are.
From the New Georgia Encyclopedia: Leila Ross Wilburn (1885-1967)
This is would be grand in any neighborhood.
Architect Leila Ross Wilburn was an active designer of pattern-book houses, published in booklets through which she was able, at low cost, to make available to developers and builders hundreds of house plans. As a result there are countless unidentified Wilburn houses, which for decades were built by anonymous contractors, located throughout Atlanta, where she practiced architecture, and likely elsewhere in the region.
From the History or Midtown by by Tommy Jones and Bamby Ray
Not every family needs a mansion. In Atlanta our plants do get overgrown; but we need the shade.
In her early period, Wilburn designed at least eighty single-family houses, photographs of which were included in her first plan book. Her practice coincided with Atlanta’s residential expansion and examples of her work can be found in Inman Park, Ansley Park as well as Midtown. She also designed at least six apartment buildings. Beginning in 1914, Wilburn expanded into the mail-order plan business. Her first of seven plan books was called Southern Homes and Bungalows, and contained seventy-nine buildings. Examples of her houses in Midtown can be seen at 826 Penn and 315 Tenth Street. The Chatham Court apartment building at 690 Piedmont Avenue was also designed by Wilburn. She remained active through the 1950s.
The plans aren't just about the floor plan: From Plan 582:
... the triple (front gables)... is our of common. the pressed brick foundation and the checked top to windows add materially to the good appearance of the exterior...The dining froom bay with its seat is attractive in th eroom and break the plain side of the house.Look at all the chimneys and the craftsman details.
A very distinctive home. See my "Columns in antis" post. This is Southern Homes and Bungalows, page 83, plan #746.
It takes good bones to make purple clapboard great. Don't try this on just any home.
Here is one of her apartments. The Wilburn House is the closest apartment building to Piedmont Park. When built, the basement was a stable. It's since been converted to condos. The developers added new units that echo and compliment the original. I took this picture on Tuesday of this week. It's looking real good.
This slideshow features Leila Ross Wilburn homes in a single Decatur subdivision, the MAK Neighborhood Historic District where you can learn more about each home.
I'm a sentimental family man. I'm fortunate to have discovered this remarkably talented, industrious, and practical woman who was responsible for so many wonderful homes in Atlanta. When I see these houses today I can only wonder how many generations of children have been reared in them. How many more families will enjoy living in them?
Ms. Wilburn attended Agnes Scott (also the alma mater of the Architecture Tourist's wife and very familiar ground). Several of her homes literally overlook the campus.
These are adaptable beauties and the keyword is beauty.
- Ms. Leila Ross Wilburn was Georgia's first registered female architect (Registered Architect #29)
- "What we most need in America," she writes in Brick and Colonial Homes: A Collection of the Latest Designs, Featuring the Most Modern in Domestic Architecture, "is a better class of small domestic architecture, one which shall provide us with homes more wholesome in their exterior appearance and more satisfying in their internal arrangement and finish."
- Leila Ross Wilburn Homes in MAK
- AJC A tour of Leila Ross Wilburn homes
- Leila Ross Wilburn WIKI
- New Georgia Encyclopedia: Leila Ross Wilburn (1885-1967)
- History of Midtown by by Tommy Jones and Bamby Ray
- Georgia Women of Acheivement Leila Ross Wilburn "...she joined the only other Georgia woman, Henrietta C. Dozier,"
- Prominent architect Leila Ross Wilburn designed homes on Avery Street in Winnona Park
- From City of Decatur MAK is first residential subdivision
- The architecture of Leila Ross Wilburn : an investigation into the plan book process and ideology in Atlanta from 1910-1940 Authors: Ramsey, David Clifton
- The Wilburn Pattern Books
- American Bungalow magazine
- Leila Ross Wilburn: Plan-Book Architect, by Jan Jennings © 1989 Woman's Art, Inc.. excerpt"the only woman whose published plan books can be documented"
- Wilburn House 266 11th St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
- "DeKalb History Center is hosting a lecture (March 24, 2009) on Decatur’s MAK Historic District. Guest speaker Scott Leith"
- "Decatur Tour of Leila Ross Wilburn Homes Featured in AJC"