One of the first female American architects, Sophia Hayden is known for designing the Woman’s Building from the World’s Columbian Exposition 1893 in Chicago. Were there more famous buildings?
Spotlight on Sophia Hayden
Born on October 17, 1868 in Santiago, Chile, Sophia Hayden’s mother was from Chile, and her father was an American dentist from Boston. When she was six years old she was sent to live with her grandparents in the suburbs of Boston. During her years at high school she developed an interest in architecture.
Hayden graduated with honors in 1890 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During this time Hayden shared a drafting room with another female architect, Lois Lilley Howe. These two were some of the first women to graduate from MIT with a degree in architecture.
As a woman, it was hard for Hayden to find an entry level apprentice position in this era of time. She took up a role as a mechanical drawing teacher at Boston high school.
The Woman’s Building
Picked from 14 submissions by female architects, Hayden won the prize to design The Woman’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, also known as the Chicago Fair. The event celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World. The building featured an Italian Renaissance detailing with plenty of skylights.
The Woman’s Building was one of 14 main buildings centered around a giant reflective pool. The decor included sculptures, murals and a roof garden also all designed by women, which was an unusual concept at the time. It hosted exhibits of work from women, including fine art, literary, science and music.
Aged only 22 at the time of the design, Hayden went to Chicago to supervise the construction of the Great Building. Overwhelmed by the pressure of supervising such a large construction project, and the negative criticism that her design was too dainty, Hayden later retired from architecture and never designed another building.
Sadly, it was a common policy to demolish buildings after the world fair was over and this building is no exception.
After retiring from architecture, Hayden met artist and interior designer William Blackstone Bennett, and they married in 1900. Sadly, he pased away of pneumonia in 1909.
Hayden lived the rest of her life working as an artist in Massachusetts, and passed away in a nursing home in 1953 aged 84.
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