About Mary Hook (Rockwell)
Mary Rockwell Hook (September 8, 1877 – September 8, 1978) was an American architect and a pioneer for women in architecture. She designed throughout the United States.
According to the International Archive of Women in Architecture, "Mary Rockwell Hook will be remembered, not because she was a woman working in a 'man's field,' but because she was a successful designer who made her mark in the field of architecture."
Born in Junction City, Kansas, Mary was the daughter of Bertrand Rockwell, a successful grain merchant and banker. In 1906, the Rockwell family moved to Kansas City. Mary Rockwell married Inghram Hook, an attorney, in 1921.
Mary Rockwell Hook graduated from Wellesley College in 1900. In 1903, she enrolled as the only woman in her class in the architecture department at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1905, Hook went to Paris to study under Marcel Auburtin at the École des Beaux-Arts.
According to Hook's autobiography, she decided to become an architect after a 1902 family trip abroad:
"It was during this trip home from the Philippines that I decided someone needed to improve the design of the buildings used by our government abroad. I made up my mind to go home and study architecture."
As a female student in a predominantly male school, Hook faced sexual discrimination. In 1906, during her final examinations at a studio of École des Beaux-Arts, French male students flung buckets of water at her as she fled through the courtyard.
The Kansas City Star later wrote that the era was one "when male architects were openly antagonistic to women joining the profession."
Discrimination did not end with her degree. The American Institute of Architects denied Hook admission because of her sex. Upon her 100th birthday in 1977, however, the professional organization presented her with a plaque for distinguished service. Kansas City residents further celebrated the occasion by touring famous homes that she had designed locally.
Career and impact
Pine Mountain Settlement School
Around 1913, when Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long Zande were preparing for the foundation of Pine Mountain Settlement School, Ethel de Long Zande wrote Mary Rockwell Hook asking her to plan its campus. Hook later described Pine Mountain as "an 18th century world" where "there is no village to mar the peaceful landscape, where trains, motors, and chewing gum have not penetrated."
After studying the area, the three agreed that lower lands should be used for farming to feed the school while steeper lands whould be used for construction. Public buildings would be central, and cottages would line the edges of the valley.
Hook's first project for the campus construction was the renovation of a dilapidated log cabin called Old Log House. She next designed a log house for Pettit. Hook worked with local resources in her designs, including chestnut, poplar, oak, and boulders. Even though a mill was installed on campus, it took more than a year to cut and dry lumber for Laurel House, the school's dining building.
Hook remained involved with the school as a member of the Board of Trustees until she was over 90 years old. Pine Mountain Settlement School is now a National Historic Landmark.
Hook and Remington
In 1923, Hook returned to Kansas City and started the Hook and Remington architectural firm with partner Eric Douglas Macwilliam Remington.
Despite blindness in her later years, Hook imagined designs and offered ideas to modify the White House.
Mary Rockwell Hook's Kansas City designs date from as early as 1908, with her most eminent work completed during the 1920s and 1930s in the Sunset Hills area. Many of her designs in Sunset Hills pay tribute to the architectural styles she witnessed during childhood trips to Europe and East Asia. Hook's Italianate architecture was evidenced by her synthesis of brick, stone, and antique materials with tiles, frescoes, and leaded panes. Hook's own home, which she designed in 1925, is one example of an Italianate residence. Nine of Hook's works in Kansas City were studied in a National Register of Historic Places "Thematic Resources" study, and were listed on the National Register.
After purchasing 55 acres (220,000 m2) of Gulf-front property on Siesta Key, Florida, Hook developed part of the area with her designs, such as an outdoor chapel for St. Boniface Church. She designed Whispering Sands to be a sanctuary for writers and artists, and she designed houses for Sandy Hook, an architecturally creative resident area. Hook designed her octagon-shaped home for Sandy Hook.
Employing natural terrain
Mary Rockwell Hook was the first Kansas City architect to incorporate natural formations in her designs. When she continued this style on Siesta Key, local newspaper Sarasota Herald-Tribune described Hook as "bringing the outdoors in, and many of the homes she designed on Siesta Key reflected the trend long before it became popular."
In Siesta Key, Hook used solar power to heat water for a resort as early as 1937.
Mary Rockwell Hook was also the first in Kansas City to use cast-in-place concrete walls. Additionally, one of her designs was the first in Kansas City to have a private swimming pool while another was the first to have an attached garage.