Gertrude Sawyer: Pioneer and Architect

By Annie Allen, Architectural Survey Data Specialist

This time last year, as a new employee of the Maryland Historical Trust, I attended my first annual all-staff meeting at the beautiful Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM). The day included a fun “Mystery Heist” icebreaker, for which we all assumed the personalities of various characters who frequented the Patterson residence in the 1950s. When I was assigned my character – Gertrude Sawyer, the architect of the park’s Point Farm –  I was instantly intrigued. Gertrude Sawyer happens to be my mother’s name! To get into my role, I read a small synopsis about Gertrude and learned that she was from Tuscola, Illinois, two hours away from where my Sawyer ancestors hail. These coincidences spurred me to dig a little deeper to find out more about this woman. I was hoping to find a fun family connection to my assigned character. What I discovered is definitely worth sharing. 

Gertrude Sawyer ca.1957. Source: University of Illinois Archives

Gertrude graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1918 with a B.S. in landscape architecture. Wishing to be an architect from a young age, she attended Smith College’s Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, where she earned a Master’s in Architecture in 1922. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to work as an associate for Horace W. Peaslee – however, not before building and selling her first residential home in Kansas City, Missouri. She received an early commission while working for Mr. Peaslee to design the Junior League of Washington’s Art Deco headquarters on Dupont Circle. In 1934, Gertrude opened her own firm and became an AIA member in 1939.  During World War II, Gertrude helped to design four thousand temporary homes for military families in D.C.  She earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander for the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps (the Seabees). By the time of her retirement in 1969, Gertrude was registered to practice architecture in the District of Columbia, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Junior League Building (now Kossuth House, Hungarian Reformed Federation). Source: Kossuth Foundation

Gertrude’s projects were predominantly residential, with a focus on country estates. In 1932, Jefferson Patterson, a foreign service diplomat, hired Gertrude to design Point Farm, his country residence in St. Leonard, Maryland, most of which is now JPPM. This project resulted in 26 building designs, ranging from an elegant Colonial Revival family home and guest houses to a show barn for cattle. The Patterson family considered Gertrude the family’s architect. Gertrude’s scrupulous eye for detail is not only evident in the exquisite classical architectural features of the Patterson home but also in her rigorous note-taking, sections, and plans. Her drawings can be found online at the Maryland State Archives, and many of her building designs can still be seen around Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area.

Point Farm, Jefferson Patterson Residence. Source: JPPM

As one of this area’s early woman architects, Gertrude Sawyer was definitely a groundbreaker in her field. However, rather than being recognized as a female architect, she preferred to be known as a good architect. In an interview with Gertrude, Matilda McQuaid revealed “that several women’s organizations had contacted her, knowing her to be one of the pioneer women architects. But when she told them, ‘I was always treated fairly, and throughout my career had a very good time building and designing,’ they never called back.” She once told the Sunday Star that “[p]eople who don’t want a woman architect just don’t come to you. But others see the advantage of your being able to interpret their individual needs because you are a woman.” Gertrude’s dedication to her profession and her pursuit of excellence forged a successful career with many long-standing clients like the Pattersons. 

Detail of the main stair in Jefferson Patterson Residence. Source: Maryland State Archives

Although I haven’t found that family connection yet, it was a pleasure ‘getting to know’ this accomplished architect and trailblazer. I’m still researching! 

Jefferson Patterson Farm. Source: AIA Baltimore

For more information about Gertrude Sawyer’s buildings at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, visit https://jefpat.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx 

Sources:

Allaback, Sarah. The First American Women Architects. University of Illinois Press, 2008.

American Institute of Architects. Application For Membership. June 1939. Gertrude Sawyer’s AIA Application. 1735 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC.

Berkeley, Ellen Perry., and Matilda McQuaid. Architecture: A Place for Women. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1989. 

Dean, Ruth. “For The Seabees: Woman Architect Came to Their Aid.” The Sunday Star [Washington. DC] 25 Mar. 1956, D-10 sec.: n.

Preserving a Legacy: The Orlando Ridout V Collection

By Lara Westwood, Librarian, Maryland Historical Trust

Orlando Ridout V grew up surrounded by Maryland history. His family could trace its roots here back to 1753, and he grew up in a home built on the land of his family’s ancestral estate, Whitehall. His father, Orlando Ridout IV, known for his preservation work in Annapolis, was the Maryland Historical Trust’s founding director. After graduating from the University of Virginia, Ridout began his career at MHT and stayed for nearly 30 years until his death in 2013. In 1989, he became the Chief of the Office of Research, Survey, and Registration, where he built a robust program of architectural study and documentation, advancing the scholarship on Maryland’s architectural history.  

Orlando Ridout V at work in Annapolis. (Staff photo)
Orlando Ridout V at work in Annapolis. (Staff photo)

Shortly after joining MHT, Ridout began work on a comprehensive survey of Queen Anne’s County. His enthusiasm for thorough documentation led him to study nearly five hundred historic structures for which he conducted field survey and archival research, created measured drawings, and took countless photographs. The survey shed new light on the county’s architectural trends and historical development, becoming the high-water mark for future county surveys conducted by MHT. He was also passionate about the study of barns and agricultural buildings and worked early on with the Friends of Friendless Farm Buildings, a group founded to document these often forgotten structures, to record farm buildings on the Eastern Shore. His expertise was sought after for many significant preservation and documentation projects, including the Third Haven Meeting House in Easton, Maryland and the Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston, South Carolina. His extensive research resulted in a number of publications, including co-authorship of Architecture in Annapolis: A Field Guide and a chapter in The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg. He also taught “Field Methods for Architectural History” at George Washington University, where he fostered the next generation of preservation professionals. 

Ridout took great pride in his work on the Third Haven Meeting House. (Source: Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties)

After his passing in 2013, the MHT Library received his research collection, a tremendous cache of papers filled with deep insight into the history of the state. Dozens of field and research notebooks, lecture notes and readings, architectural sketches, manuscript drafts of publications and reviews, and about 30 metal storage boxes  containing over 20,000 35mm slides comprise the collection. Ridout’s work on Queen Anne’s County is well represented, and further study of his field notebooks, census and tax record analysis, and other research notes may provide additional context beyond the final architectural survey report. Ridout also extensively researched the 1798 Federal Direct Tax, and scholars may benefit from reviewing his in-depth analysis for his  article “Reediting the Past: A Comparison of Surviving Physical and Documentary Evidence on Maryland’s Eastern Shore” published in the Fall 2014 issue of Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. The collection includes research notes and correspondence related to his consultation work with George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg as well. Among the thousands of slides compiled for lectures and reference are images of historic buildings from across the United States and England and representational examples of architectural styles, building plans, and interior details.

A few of the many slide boxes in the collection. (Staff photo)
A few of the many slide boxes in the collection. (Staff photo)

MHT staff are currently working to make the collection available to researchers, and the finding aid will be posted online in the coming months. The collection is currently being organized and inventoried according to archival principles, assessed for conservation issues, and rehoused in acid-free boxes and folders. Once the project is complete, the collection will be available for public use.

2020 Brings Staff Transitions at MHT

The Director and staff of the Maryland Historical Trust are pleased to recognize three of our own who are assuming new positions within the agency!

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On January 15, longtime Easement Administrator Kate (Bolasky) Jaffe began her new position as the Administrator of the Preservation Financial Incentives unit within the Office of Preservation Services (OPS). 

A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Kate developed her interest in historic preservation at an early age from her father, an architect whose passion was the restoration of historic structures. Through her work in the easement program for the past 4 ½ years, Kate has managed more than 900 historic properties statewide and provided technical advice and guidance to countless property owners, architects, and consultants with project rehabilitation plans and application of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Kate’s experiences have spanned the east coast from her upbringing in Pennsylvania immersed in both the vernacular and high style of Pennsylvania German architecture, to earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Historic Preservation amid the Lowcountry heritage of Savannah, Georgia. Kate’s broad-based knowledge of building history, materials, and construction techniques across the Mid-Atlantic and southern states will no doubt continue to benefit MHT in her new position.  

With this new position, Kate will supervise and lead the Preservation Financial Incentives Unit within OPS, overseeing tax credits, easements, and capital grants and loans programs.  Congratulations, Kate – and good luck!

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On January 29, Allison Luthern started her new position as Architectural Survey Administrator in the Office of Research, Survey, & Registration (ORSR).  She will primarily be responsible for overseeing additions to the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP). She will also participate in grants management related to the survey and documentation of standing structures, conduct architectural fieldwork, and provide technical assistance related to historic buildings.

As MHT’s Easement Inspector for three-and-a half years, Allison has completed inspections and conditions assessments on hundreds of historic properties across the state. This experience with historic building fabric and the diverse architecture of every region of the state will greatly benefit her new position. Her knowledge of the MIHP and experience with survey work gained during her education at the University of Mary Washington and Appalachian State University will be a valuable asset in ORSR.

Allison’s enthusiasm for historic buildings is evident, and there are sure to be many discussions about Maryland buildings as we traverse the State. As Allison says, “Few things excite me more than a stuffy attic with a tilted false plate, molding profiles, or a good eighteenth-century brick privy.” She joins a team of other historic building-lovers in ORSR, who can ponder a building’s evolution for hours, or who become giddy when seeing rare architectural evidence in a building. Orlando Ridout V, who served as ORSR’s Chief for many years, often said: “You’re either born a surveyor, or you’re not.” Well, welcome to the team, Allison!

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Also, on January 29, OPS welcomed Barbara Fisher as our new Capital Grant Administrator.  As part of the OPS grant team, Barbara will be responsible for administering the MHT Capital Grant Program and will also be involved with grant projects that have received funding through the African American Heritage Preservation Program.

Barbara is well-versed in project review and historical research for National Register nominations, with experience as a Section 106 reviewer at the Georgia SHPO and as an architectural historian in Portland, Oregon. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Historic Preservation from Shepherd University and a Master’s degree in Historic Preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Since coming to MHT two years ago, she has worked in ORSR as an Architectural Survey Data Analyst, helping to identify re-survey needs and strategic opportunities for new survey work as well as enhancing our searchable database.  In her new position, she’ll be putting her hands-on experience from SCAD to good use in assisting grantees with their construction projects.

A native of Maryland, Barbara is thrilled to work with her fellow Marylanders to preserve the state’s historic resources. The OPS grant unit strives to directly support local communities in saving cherished sites, and we are delighted to add such a talented and enthusiastic member to the team!

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With all these changes occurring since the start of the new year, keep an eye out on our homepage in the right-hand sidebar for our open recruitments.  We’d love to have you join our team!  Applications are only open for two weeks, though, so check back frequently!

MHT Releases Interim Standards & Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland

By Heather Barrett, Administrator of Research & Survey

In mid-November 2019, MHT released an updated version of its Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland. This interim document addresses and clarifies existing policies and procedures for documenting historic resources in Maryland and contains several notable changes in requirements for consultants, preservation planners, state and federal agencies who conduct work in Maryland, and anyone preparing Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) forms, Determination of Eligibility forms (DOEs), or National Register nominations. 

New cover of the Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Historical Investigations in Maryland.

This version is meant as an interim update until MHT’s web-based MIHP/DOE form is released in 2021. Many exciting changes are afoot, which will necessitate substantial revisions to the Standards & Guidelines at that time, including: an electronic review and submission process; a combined MIHP/DOE form; and the inclusion of new fields on the inventory form, such as architectural style/influences, construction date, and materials. The new system will greatly enhance the ability to conduct more detailed searches in Medusa, our online cultural resource information system, and will facilitate comparative analyses of buildings across Maryland, for the benefit of scholars, researchers, and consultants. 

In the meantime, we would like to highlight the significant changes in the 2019 version of the Standards & Guidelines. Overall, anyone producing inventory or nomination forms should pay particular attention to Chapters 4, 5, and 8. The most notable change is to the photo requirement. All grant-funded and National Register projects still require printed 5×7 black-and-white photographs or, now, color  photographs. All other submittals, including for compliance purposes and owner-produced or county-produced forms, may now elect to use either printed photographs or digital photographs embedded in continuation sheets (see Chapter 4, pages 34-35, and Appendix A). The preparer may submit up to 20 images in print form or on continuation sheets and, if providing more than 20 images, then include the surplus photos as digital files only. The inclusion of all image files in TIFF format on an archival CD is still required for all projects. MHT will be uploading all images to a dedicated server. 

Measured drawing of the Eightrupp Corn House at Susquehanna State Park.

Another important change is that MHT now requires a contributing and non-contributing list or chart of all resources included within survey or historic district boundaries (see page 26). The preparer may determine the format of this information. For example, if a district has been determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the preparer may wish to include a greater level of detail, such as the address of the property, resource type, estimated construction date, a brief description of each resource, and status (CON/NC).  This additional information is a significant improvement because it provides an exact account of what is included within the district boundary and recommends a contributing or non-contributing status based on the integrity of each resource. Many early nominations did not include this information, which is critical in determining eligibility for the State and Federal tax credit programs, as well as various grant and loan programs. Although this practice has become common for National Register nominations in recent years, survey districts rarely include this amount of detail. 

Fieldwork at Blandair in Howard County.

The updated version also incorporates a chapter on guidelines for completing National Register nomination forms in Maryland and an updated chart showing statewide survey coverage, the estimated percentage of buildings constructed prior to 1967, and the number of MIHP forms per county (see page 5). Appendices include an example of the new photo continuation sheet; the Standards for Submission of Digital Images to the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties; and a submissions checklist that underscores commonly overlooked procedures required to accession material into the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. 

We encourage all who are involved in the documentation of Maryland’s historic resources to read the updated Standards & Guidelines for further details. If you have any questions or comments about the content or new policies and procedures, please contact Heather Barrett, Administrator of Research & Survey, at heather.barrett@maryland.gov

Welcome, Zachary Singer!

The Maryland Historical Trust is pleased to welcome Dr. Zachary Singer as Research Archeologist in the Office of Research, Survey, and Registration. Zac will primarily be responsible for maintaining the Maryland Archeological Synthesis Project, summarizing Phase II and III compliance archeology reports in MHT’s library. Zac will also participate in grants management, archeological fieldwork, and will conduct research on collections entrusted to MHT’s care.

Research Archeologist, Dr. Zachary Singer

Zac’s interest in Maryland archeology was first piqued as a student at Towson High School, when he interned with Dr. Bob Wall of Towson University, studying his Paleoindian assemblage from the Barton site. Zac went on to earn his B.A. at the University of Maryland, College Park and gained field experience under the direction of Dr. Stephen Brighton and Dr. David Gadsby. Zac took a hiatus from Maryland archeology to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut where he excavated and analyzed New England Paleoindian sites under the guidance of Dr. Kevin McBride, Dr. Jonathan Lothrop, Dr. Daniel Adler, and the late Dr. Brian Jones.

After receiving his doctorate, Zac returned to Maryland to teach and conduct research, once again, in the archeology of his home state. Prior to joining MHT, Zac taught and conducted research through a Visiting Assistant Professorship at Towson University, as an adjunct professor at Washington College, as a 2016 and 2017 Gloria S. King Research Fellow at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, as a contractual archeologist for Anne Arundel County’s Cultural Resources Division, and as Public Programs Coordinator for the Lost Towns Project, Inc.

Zac’s major research interest is Maryland’s prehistoric occupations with a particular focus on studying the Paleoindian period to refine interpretations of Maryland’s earliest inhabitants. Zac is also keen on collections based research, analyzing (or re-analyzing) artifact collections generated by both professional and avocational archeologists in order to glean information about Maryland’s past.

Zac may be reached by telephone at 410-697-9544 or by email at zachary.singer@maryland.gov.

Summer in the Conservation Lab

By Rebekah Engelland, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory Intern

During my summer internship with the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab), I learned much about the conservation of archeological materials. As a pre-program conservation intern looking at graduate schools, I knew very little about conservation practices. I first focused on the treatment of iron, spending time in the air abrasive unit (essentially a microscopic sand blaster), practicing on non-archeological iron that had corroded. Once I felt comfortable with the air abrasive unit, I moved on to iron from archeological sites that required conservation. The next step in treating iron is to remove the chlorides, one of the critical components to rust. Every week I had to check the amount of chlorides in six different containers as the salts were extracted from the artifacts and drawn into a caustic solution.

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Working on the Fifth Regiment Armory’s World War I Memorial in Baltimore

Following iron, I learned how to clean copper alloy artifacts, which involved using a scalpel under a microscope to remove soil and corrosion until I came down on a stable patina layer. I also cleaned white metal artifacts (tin, aluminum and lead) and applied a protective coating once no more soil or corrosion remained. For silver-plated items, I learned to use electrolytic reduction, an electrochemical technique, to help take off the outer layer of tarnish and limit the amount of polishing before I applied a protective coating of wax. Lead required a different approach, and I used electrolytic consolidation to reduce the corrosion on the surface of the lead artifacts.

Throughout the summer, I also had the opportunity to go out into the field and help on projects. MAC Lab Conservator Heather Rardin and I had the chance to see a laser cleaning demonstration at the Fifth Regiment Armory’s World War I Memorial in Baltimore, where the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc. removed previous paint layers and dirt from both bronze and stone with a laser custom-built for conservation. One of the assistants let me try out the laser to clean a few feathers on one of the bronze eagles.

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Removing ship’s timbers at Alexandria’s historic waterfront

At the Alexandria, Virginia waterfront, MAC Lab Head Conservator Nichole Doub and I helped Alexandria Archaeology’s team with on-site conservation as they deconstructed a ship’s hull before an underground parking garage was built. The ship, along with two others, was deliberately sunk to be part of a late 18th century wharf. By the time I joined the project, the team was removing the ship’s timbers using a crane. Nichole guided the deconstruction process, making sure the team did as little damage as possible to the remains of the ship. We returned a couple days later and helped the team remove the ship’s keel, which I helped strap to the crane. It was incredible playing a small role in saving a part of Alexandria’s history.

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Cleaning statues in Prince Frederick

On another excursion, Heather and I went to the Prince Frederick courthouse and helped Howard Wellman Conservation LLC treat three statues. The marble and limestone bases were treated with a biocide and then scrubbed down. To coat the bronze statue, we used a blow torch to heat up the metal. Then we applied a protective layer of wax with the brush, heating it up more with the blow torch to remove the brush strokes. These treatments would protect the statues against both corrosion and biological growths, though they would need to be repeated every few years.

Over the summer I received an extensive education on archeological and object conservation from the amazing staff at the MAC Lab. This experience makes me feel much more prepared to apply to graduate conservation programs. I want to thank everyone at the MAC Lab for taking the time to teach me and making this a truly incredible internship.