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Bertha Mather McPherson, Architect, Darien CT. Appreciating a designing and pioneering woman.

The Mather Homestead site tells us that Stephen Mather’s daughter, Bertha, graduated from Vassar in 1928 and the Cam-bridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in

1933 and became one of the first woman architects in Conn-ecticut. Recent discoveries in the attic have told us more.

As an aside, the Cambridge School was based in Cambridge MA and affiliated with Smith College while Bertha attended. It was the first school to offer women graduate training in architecture and landscape architecture under a single faculty. The school disbanded in 1942 when, for the first time, women were allowed into the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

In the attic, we found a panel submitted by Bertha to a House Beautiful competition in which she detailed her design for the house which sits to the east of the Homestead. Bertha designed the house for her aunt, Grace Floy.

On the panel she states four design problems that had to be addressed: 1. Design to be in keeping with a nearby house built in 1778; 2. How to best take advantage of old apple orchard to the north of the house; 3. Writing room required for special hobby of owner; 4. How to best make use of space between four foot line and eaves on second floor.

We also learn something of 1930s construction. Insulation was “3-Ply Cabot’s Quilt.” This was eelgrass sandwiched between two sheets of paper and which unfortunately did not offer a large measure of insulation. The cost of the project? “$20,485, excluding landscaping.”

The eelgrass is long gone, but the house’s appearance remains much the same with a continuing familial connection to Bertha and an ongoing tribute to her vision.

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