First Female US Architect Practiced Here in Central Florida


Born in 1873 in Waltham MA, Ida Annah Ryan was the first American female architect. She graduated from MIT with a Masters of Science, and a Masters of Architecture in 1907. Ida was attracted to the idea of the study of architecture during her high school years.

While practicing initially in Massachusetts, she relocated to Florida because of a lack of work there after the War. At first employed by Frederick H. Trimble in 1918 and 1919, as his designing architect, Ida formed her own firm in the 1920’s. She was joined in Florida by Isabella Roberts who had been a designer-draftsman at Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm in Oak Park, Illinois. Together they formed an architectural practice called “Ryan and Roberts.” Ida and Isabel practiced out of a studio in the house they designed for themselves at 834 Kenilworth Terrace, Orlando, Florida. The house is still a well maintained private residence, in a simplified Mediterranean style featuring scalloped buttresses on a gabled frame in stucco, with asymmetrical windows and decorative attic vents. The house is oriented to the side yard.

Through their connection to Isabel’s brother-in-law, John B. Somerville, who served on the building committee, they managed to win the commission for the Veterans Memorial Library shown above, at 1012 Massachusetts Ave., St. Cloud, Florida. While perhaps to sound more appealing, the building was described as Grecian, it holds more affinity to Bank buildings in the Midwest during this era by Louis Sullivan, and Purcell and Elmslie.

Ryan had a productive career, designing many homes throughout Orlando, Mount Plymouth, St. Cloud and Windermere, Florida. Some notable commissions include: Atlantic Coast Line railroad depot (while still in MA), Tourist Club House (demolished), Chapel at the Fisk Funeral Home, Pennsylvania Hotel Building, Ross E. Jeffries Elementary School, and Peoples Bank Building all in St. Cloud. The Unity Chapel near Lake Eola in Orlando, also designed while she still lived in Massachusetts, was remodeled in the 1920’s by Ryan and Roberts, razed in the 1960’s, Ida was a member of the congregation.


While denied entry into the Massachusetts chapter of the American Institute of Architects 3 times, she was admitted into the Florida AIA. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement, and was the first woman employed by the war department in World War I. Ida remained in Orlando until her death in 1950, and was buried in her hometown of Waltham, MA.

You can read more about this incredible woman in this Wikipedia article, which also cites many other references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Annah_Ryan

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