Mary Almy (1407-1712-1), Architect

[In April I received a letter from Katherine Almy (1407-1C74-314) asking what information I had about Mary Almy in the book The Lady Architects: Howe, Manning and Almy. I tried to find a copy in the local library system (Portland, OR), but it was not available. Therefore, Katherine loaned me her book and the information in the book was used for the following article.]
(From the book The Lady Architects: Howe, Manning and Almy by Midmarch Arts Press, New York, 1990)

In 1913, architects Lois Lilley Howe and Eleanor Manning formed a partnership that established one of the few architectural firms of its time run solely by women. In 1926, Mary Almy joined them. The firm of Howe, Manning and Almy became a solid success, noted for its excellent design with roots in the classical past, good business judgment and concern about the effect of architecture on people's lives. The firm's specialty was domestic architecture -- robust, graceful and typically American houses -- but the women also designed commercial spaces, professional clubs and public housing. They enjoyed "renovising," a term invented by Manning to mean renovating and revising outdated structures. The prodigious amount of consistently excellent work they accomplished collectively spans a period of about 50 years.

The firm of Howe, Manning and Almy closed on September 1, 1937, probably because of declining business, the partners' advancing age and changing interests. The Depression had been hard on the Howe, Manning and Almy practice, as it had been on most offices, with the number and size of commissions decreasing considerably. The founding partner, Lois Lilley Howe, was 73 years old in 1937 and was ready to retire, though she lived until nearly 100 and was active throughout her life. Eleanor Manning was 53 years old and had married. Mary Almy, the most recent partner, was 54 years old in 1937, independent financially, and interested in many other activities.

Most of Howe, Manning and Almy's buildings have survived time, the bulldozer, changes in taste, urban blight and economic variations. In fact, their houses and housing projects have become those charming buildings that current architects want to conserve and emulate.

Mrs. Charles Almy (1407-1712-4W), Mary's sister-in-law, when interviewed for the book stated "Mary had always wanted to do architecture, so she went to MIT. She was a architect when I met her and a mature woman, 42 years old. She became a partner of Howe and Manning's that same year." She lived in the Boston/Cambridge community all her life except the year she was in London. "She went abroad deliberately to get training so she could come home and look for a job (with) some experience behind her. She was smart enough to realize that was important."

Mary "was a very outspoken, friendly person. You knew exactly where you stood with her. If she didn't like you, you knew it. I was very fond of Mary, though she used to irritate me sometimes. She was the kind of person children adored. She enjoyed playing with them. She would just wear them out and then walk out and leave Mama to pick up the pieces." "Mary was a crackerjack bridge player. She was good at everything which had to do with figures."

Mary was the daughter of Charles and Helen Jackson (Cabot) Almy, born July 23, 1883 in Beverly, Massachusetts. Her father was a lawyer in Boston, an East Cambridge District Court Judge, and at one time was an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston. Her brother Charles was co-founder of Dewey and Almy Chemical Company in Cambridge.

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