Zina Bethune Collection on Louise Bethune
About the Collection
Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856–1913) is widely considered to be the first woman to practice as a professional architect in the United States. This digital collection explores Louise Bethune’s life and work through photographs and architectural drawings selected from the Zina Bethune collection on Louise Bethune, circa 1860-196 2.
Louise Bethune played a key role in the architectural firm that she founded, going well beyond simply designing buildings to supervising budgets and onsite work—a highly unusual role for women of the day. Louise let her work and deeds speak for her support of women’s right to work outside the home and to be equitably recompensed for their efforts. In her architecture, family life, and public and private behavior she spoke to a new generation of professional women.
The Hotel Lafayette is by far the most significant Bethune structure. The building was initially conceived in 1899 to meet the anticipated demand from the 1901 Pan American Exposition. Its restoration in 2012 was enormously important for Buffalo. The first building in New York State to be saved through state and federal historic tax credits, its restoration coincided with the most substantial economic expansion the Queen City of the Lakes had witnessed in decades. Bethune’s restored opus has come to embody the Lady Architect’s finest work during the Queen City’s finest years and symbolizes what is to come.
The bulk of The Zina Bethune collection on Louise Bethune collection was gifted to the University Archives by Sean Feeley (husband of Zina Bethune) in 2017, as facilitated by Kelly Hayes McAlonie. Additional materials were gifted to the University Archives by Kelly Hayes McAlonie and Jon Morris. The foundation of this collection rests with materials pertaining to Louise Bethune and her work as an architect. These include several portraits of Bethune, from approximately age 3 to 55; a typewritten biographical manuscript by Bethune written near the end of her life; her genealogy research of the Blanchard and Bethune families; and architectural plans for three of Bethune’s works in Buffalo, New York. The collection also documents Louise and Robert Bethune’s son, Dr. Charles William Bethune.