Thursday, April 2, 2009

Leila Ross Wilburn

Ms. Leila Ross Wilburn (1885-1967) was Georgia's first registered female architect (Registered Architect #29). She was also "the only woman whose published plan books can be documented." Julia over at Hooked on Houses is hosting her "Hooked on Friday's" blog party. I'm hooked on Leila.

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)

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.

This is would be grand in any neighborhood.

From the History or Midtown by by Tommy Jones and Bamby Ray

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.

Not every family needs a mansion. In Atlanta our plants do get overgrown; but we need the shade.

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.

My notes


  1. Wow, Terry, this is another fantastic post! I'm so glad to learn about this architect and see some of her beautiful homes. I love learning things like this, and the slideshow was great. Thanks!

  2. Love the porch. Gives a home a classic feel to it.

  3. Love this blog! I think we may have one Leila Ross Wilburn home, here in Madison. On Billups Avenue.

    I have always loved architecture, too. Happy to have found this blog. Thank you!

  4. Those columns, that porch - TO DIE FOR!!!

  5. I'd love to see the insides of her homes. Beautiful.
    Mrs. Petrie @

  6. This one is for sale right now, the 1952 Collier-Palmer House in Montezuma, GA. Not decorated to my taste but great bones I think. Quite a bargain if you can make a living in Metezuma. The ones I have pictures of are much older.

  7. love this post. will be back later when i have more time to really read it. :)

  8. I really enjoyed this post. I love architecture, so this blog is not only educational but so interesting! Thanks for sharing about the history behind these homes!

  9. How beautiful!

    I'm also attracted to her because we have the same name!

    Isn't it funny that now, with all the expertise, abundant materials, and availability of information, we can't come close to this kind of charm?

  10. Wow fantastic homes, I love the architecture. Thanks for taking the time to share with us on HOF...

  11. I love learning about this sort of thing. My favorite female architect for a long time has been Julia Morgan, but I think Ms. Wilburn might be in the running for the top spot ;)

    Do you think it's possible that some of her home plans would have made it up to Ohio? I've seen a few that resemble some of these.

    Great post!


  12. Rue, I don't know where her plans have ended up. There is a phd thesis about Ms. Wilburn and her pattern books at the Ga Tech Architecture library. I hope to see it some day.

    She apparently used her vacations to travel and observe homes all over. (All over where, I don't know.) Maybe she got some of her designs from Ohio.

  13. Wonderful and beautiful post! Love the pictures of Ms. Wilburn's designs, and I do love that style. We sold a brick Craftsman bungalow last year when we bought the old(er) house we live in now, and there are many aspects of it that I miss.

    Bungalows are thrifty, family-friendly homes, practical and charming. Thanks for the lovely tour!


  14. How we love your blog! This is such an interesting post. I wish I would have known about her in college - we had to write a report on an architect...I never heard of her - what a great topic to study {loved all of your examples as well!}
    Thanks for the historical lesson!
    Karla & Karrie

  15. Great stuff! It might be nice if more architects devoted time to pattern books so we could see more beautiful houses being built.

  16. These bungalows are adorable. I would love to live in one.

  17. Oh and Terry, you asked where I put my husband's picture last week on my blog. I moved it over my couch but I think I'm going to put it in his office with his I Love Me wall. But first, I need help in my bedroom!

  18. I love the sentiment behind this post - you are clearly a person who has a great appreciation for architects and houses! It is nice to think about all of the families raised in certain houses, all of the people who have lived within the walls.

    I was talking to a friend about houses this week (the wife of Stan Dixon) and she seems to share the love of houses that we do...she has a particular soft spot for older homes that are given a new life with a remodel. She loves both the older style floorplans and the beauty of saving an old home from the landfill. I think you would like her!

    PS - have you ever thought about taking off the word verification on your blog? I have never had it on. About once a month, I have to delete an errant post (mainly Japanese or Chinese posts that I obviously can't read, so I delete just in case they are saying awful things).

  19. Love your research, photos and personal touch on all your posts, Terry! Let me know when you do a blog about small living quarters and I'll send you some photos of our 400 sq ft apt ( :

  20. You picked great houses to photograph! It's like bungalow porn, to use a cliche.

    Bungalows are one of the things that make Atlanta special!

    Kudos on a very cool blog.

  21. We were told when we bought our house at 1245 McLendon Ave in Candler Park that it was a Wilburn design (#503, p25, "Ideal Homes of Today"), though that was the first I'd heard of her despite growing up in Atlanta's older neighborhoods. But today I discovered that my childhood home at 1284 Oxford Rd (now under major renovation by a new owner) was also a Wilburn house (#1553, p45, "Homes in Good Taste"). So I've spent almost 1/2 my life now in "Wilburn space". I know where some of her extent houses are around town, but I see many others that I feel sure are hers as well.

  22. I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


  23. Lelia Ross Wilburn also was the architect for 9 Country Club Hills, now included in a local historic district, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Contact Bob Gamble, Ala. Hist. Comm., or Robert Mellown, Univ. of Ala. for additional information.

  24. PS, in an effort to provide a more specific address, #9 COUNTRY CLUB CIRCLE, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is documented as a design by architect Leila Ross Wilburn of Georgia.

  25. Piedmont and Third Condominiums (formerly The Chatham Court) are some of her works.

    1. 690 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

      155 Third Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

  26. Terry, I have enjoyed reading your blog. I'll add another data point to the geographic distribution of LRW designed homes. I recently inherited my grandparent's home built in 1937 from plan #5668 in "Homes in Good Taste". I have the original blueprints and specifications. The home is located a few miles east of Fairhope in Baldwin County, AL. The page in the pattern book shows what appears to be a photograph of another copy of the home. I would love to find out if it is still in existence.

  27. Hi, All: I have lived in a LRW house in Danielsville, GA for 17 years. It was built in 1917. I actually have one page from the blueprints (a front elevation). House just went up for sale, if any LRW fans in the Athens/NE GA are looking for something very special. More info. here:
    Thank you, David in Danielsville.

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