Ida Ryan was a trailblazing female in the field of architecture who fortunately made her way to Florida where some of her beautiful work still stands.
Ryan recently came to my attention. A friend of mine told me about a charming house of her design. Her name was unknown to me so I wanted to learn more.
Ida Annah Ryan (1873-1950) was born in Waltham, Massachusetts. She was the first woman to receive a Master of Science from MIT as well as being the first woman to receive a Master’s in architecture within the US. She was the eighth woman to be admitted to the AIA (American Institute of Architects). Upon graduation from MIT, Ryan was awarded a traveling scholarship allowing her to study in Europe for one year. While there she spent the majority of her time in Spain and Italy.
Ryan opened the first women’s architectural practice in the States based in Waltham. Her focus was designing modest housing.
She began working on a few Central Florida projects while still living in Massachusetts. In 1913, she designed the Unity Chapel of Orlando. In 1920, she and her future partner, Isabel Roberts, would remodel this same building.
Ryan was repeatedly denied admittance to the Massachusetts chapter of the AIA because she was a woman. For this reason, as well as a building slump brought on by World War 1, she relocated to Florida. In Orlando, she became the first female architect, working with Frederick H. Trimble. Finally, in 1921 she was admitted to the AIA.
Shortly after this achievement, she opened her own firm called Ryan and Roberts with Isabel Roberts. Previously Roberts had worked as a designer-draftsman under Frank Lloyd Wright in the Oak Park Studio. In the 1920’s Ryan and Roberts were one of only twelve architectural firms in Orlando.
The above photos are of the Ryan/Roberts house when it was on the market last year. Since then the original fireplace tiles were replaced as were the tiles on the stair risers. Nothing terrible has happened to it fortunately. It seems the current owner wanted to quickly flip it as it is on the market again one year later. A few changes could restore it to a more authentic design. The lovely 1920’s touches of interior openings, wood corbels, stucco details are all intact.
Some of Ryan and Roberts works include:
Veterans Memorial Library, St. Cloud, Florida. Still in use today.
Amherst Apartments, West Colonial Drive, Orlando, Florida. Demolished 1986.
Unity Chapel, Orlando. Demolished 1960’s.
Tourist Club House, St. Cloud. Demolished 2004.
Ryan/Roberts Home and Studio, Orlando. Private residence currently.
Lester M. Austin Sr. Residence, Winter Garden, Florida. Private residence currently.
Matilda A. Fraser Residence, Orlando. Private residence currently.
Researching their body of work, I realized that this house was still standing. It was like discovering buried treasure. Of course, I drove over immediately to inspect. Sadly, the house is in decline, but it hasn’t been demolished. But not for lack of trying. This house has twice escaped the wrecking ball. Most recently, in 2008, the city of Orlando purchased four homes with the intent to demolish them adding green space to nearby Florida Hospital. That they did. Due to the recession, however, their offer to purchase the Fraser house for the same purpose was withdrawn. What a blessing. This house is amazing. I hope to finagle my way in someday to see the interior.
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