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Records of Howe, Manning and Almy, Inc. and the papers of Lois Lilley Howe, Eleanor Manning O'Connor, and Mary Almy

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MC-0009

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials of the firm include correspondence, financial data, reports, specifications, photographs, blueprints, drawings, and research materials that document the firm's projects and commissions.

The collection also includes personal papers of the three architects including illustrated travel diaries, watercolors, sketchbooks, and architecural scrapbooks. Records from Eleanor Manning O'Connor's private architectural work after 1937 and material from the Seventeen Associated Architects are included. There are a number of documents about the Howe family in the personal papers of Lois Lilley Howe.

Dates

  • 1883 - 1972

Creator

Access note

Materials in this collection are open unless they are marked as restricted. Restrictions are noted in the container list.

Intellectual Property Rights

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to Distinctive Collections. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection.

Biographical / Historical

Howe, Manning & Almy, Inc. was an American architectural firm in Boston, Massachusetts that was formed in 1926 by three women, all graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was one of the first architectural firms founded by women in the United States. Lois Lilley Howe began her own firm in 1900. She partnered with another MIT alum, Eleanor Manning O'Connor, in 1913, creating the firm of Lois Lilley, Howe & Manning. Mary Almy joined the firm in 1926 and the name became Howe, Manning & Almy, Inc. In 1937 the firm dissolved after Howe retired, and Manning and Almy began their own practices.

Though the firm designed some commercial and government projects, it specialized in domestic architecture. Howe, Manning, and Almy were Revivalists and their designs often mimicked Tudor, Georgian, and American Colonial styles.

Lois Liley Howe was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Howe studied at the Museum of Fine Arts School from 1882-1886. She later studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Howe graduated in 1890. In a class of only 66 students, she was the only woman.(1)

After graduation she worked in the offices of Allen and Kenway (later renamed Allen & Collens). She placed second, after Sophia Hayden, in a competition to design the Women's Building at the Chicago World's Fair.(1) Howe opened her own architecture office in 1894. At first, her projects consisted of new or remodeled houses for friends and acquaintances. By 1900, she had enough work to set up an office in downtown Boston.

Eleanor Manning O’Connor was an American architect. She graduated from MIT in 1906 with an S.B. in architecture. Her thesis was entitled “Design for a Country Residence.” She served as president of Cleofan her senior year. Two years after graduation, she joined Lois Liley Howe as a draftsman. In 1912, she traveled in Europe and created watercolors of the buildings she observed. She cut the trip short to accept an offer of partnership from Howe and joined the firm, calling themselves Howe and Manning.

In the 1920s, O'Connor worked with Lois Howe and other architects on the Village of Mariemont, a planned community in Hamilton County, Ohio. One of her major works was a commission from WPA for low-cost housing in an Irish neighborhood in South Boston called the Old Harbor Housing Project, constructed 1933-1938. She worked with other architects in a collaboration known as the Seventeen Associated Architects. This project, consisting of three story apartments and two story townhouses was distinguished for its residential appeal as compared to the sterile atmosphere of most public housing. O'Connor is viewed as the partner most concerned about social issues and her concerns reflected the detailing, choice of materials and attention to proportion that contribute to the appeal of the project. Subsequently, O'Connor served on numerous housing commissions and councils at the city, state and national levels.(2)

Mary Almy was an an American architect. Almy grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a child she suffered from polio and would walk with crutches throughout her life. In 1905, she graduated from Radcliffe College. She taught in local private schools and became interested in architecture. This interest led her family to encourage her to design and build a summer house for them in Cape Cod. (3) In 1917 she went to study architecture at MIT. She graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in 1919.

After graduating she worked as a drafter at a London-based architectural firm called Collcut and Hamp for two years. In the 1920s, she became a drafter for the Boston firm owned by Louis Howe and Eleanor Manning who had also attended MIT. In 1912 she became a member of the AIA and a partner at Howe and Manning. Despite surviving the Great Depression, the firm closed in 1937 after Howe retired. (1) Manning and Almy continued in private practice and Almy would also work with landscape architect Henrietta Pope.

1. “Constructing a Place for female architects.” Accessed Jan 12, 2021. https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/02/27/137180/constructing-a-place-for-female-architects/ 2. Cole, Taylor, Doris, Karen Cord (1990). The Lady Architects: Lois Lilley Howe, Elenaor Manning and Mary Almy, 1893-1937. New York City, NY: Midmarch Arts Press. ISBN 1-187675-01-6. 3. “Mary Almy Biography.” Accessed Jan 13, 2021. dna.bwaf.org/architect/almy-mary/

Extent

25 Cubic Feet (21 record cartons, 4 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 6 flat storage boxes, 1 small box, 1 roll, 54 oversize folders)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The firm of Howe, Manning & Almy is believed to be the first architectural firm in Boston founded by women and the second in the United States. Lois Lilley Howe (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SB 1890), whose commissions began in 1894, established her own firm in 1900 and asked Eleanor Manning (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SB 1906), one of her draftsmen, to be her partner in 1913, creating the firm of Lois Lilley Howe & Manning. In 1926, another draftsman from the office, Mary Almy (Radcliffe College, 1905, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SB 1922) became a partner, assuming responsibility for the business aspects of the firm. Manning focused on the technical architectural work and design problems, and Howe continued to concentrate on design. The firm dissolved in 1937 when Howe retired, and Manning and Almy started separate practices.

The emphasis of the firm was on domestic architecture and the partners did both building and remodeling. They were interested in urban housing problems and worked with the Architects' Small House Service Bureau of Massachusetts and the Boston Housing Association throughout the 1920s and 1930s. They submitted small house designs to the Department of the Interior for the Subsistence Homestead Communities, remodeled apartments for the Lynn Slum Clearance Project, and developed housing in Mariemont, Ohio. Materials of the firm include correspondence, financial data, reports, specifications, photographs, blueprints, drawings, and research materials that document the firm's projects and commissions.

The collection also includes personal papers of the three architects including illustrated travel diaries, watercolors, sketchbooks, and architecural scrapbooks. Records from Eleanor Manning O'Connor's private architectural work after 1937 and material from the Seventeen Associated Architects are included. There are a number of documents about the Howe family in the personal papers of Lois Lilley Howe.

Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Provenance

The Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation and the Human Engineering Laboratory of Boston gave the Howe, Manning & Almy records to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum in 1976. Records were transferred to the Institute Archives in 1978. In 1931, Eleanor Manning became Johnson O’Connor’s second wife; this marriage lasted until they died in 1973 within days of each other. Most of the papers were stored in the O’Connors' home at 381 Beacon Street and a few folders came from the Almy family papers that are in the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College. Additional personal papers of Lois Lilley Howe were donated to the Institute Archives in 2009 by her grandniece.

Related Materials

Almy family papers, MC 235, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute.

Bibliography

  • “An Alumna’s Architectural Career,” Technology Review, vol. 66, no. 2 (December, 1963), pp. 21, 38.
  • Cole, Doris. The Lady Architects: Lois Lilley Howe, Eleanor Manning and Mary Almy: 1893-1937. New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1990. MIT Libraries: NA737.H857.C65 1990.
  • Howe, Lois Lilley. Details from Old New England Houses, Measured and Drawn by Lois L. Howe and Constance Fuller. New York: The Architectural Book Publishing Co., 1913. MIT Libraries: NA707.H856

Processing Information

Verified and enhanced the Container, Box, Barcode data for S1 Box 1, S2 Box 14, S3 Box 1, S3 Box 3, S4 Box 14. smithkr 12/2017

Processing Information

Boxes in Series 3, Lois Lilly Howe papers, were renumbered in January 2019 to be continuous with the rest of the collection. Boxes 1 - 10 have been renumbered 25 - 34, respectively.
Title
Guide to the Records of Howe, Manning & Almy, Inc. and the Papers of Lois Lilley Howe, Eleanor Manning O'Connor, and Mary Almy
Status
Completed
Author
Mary Jane McCavitt
Date
Copyright 1980
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Sponsor
A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities supported the processing of materials in 1980.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Contact:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US