Part 8 of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month
Amaza Lee Meredith (1895-1984) had a first introduction to building through her father, a master stair builder in Virginia. Any design inclinations that might have been in her DNA were suppressed or ignored in favor of a teaching career. After studying in Virginia and New York, where she earned her master’s degree in fine arts from Columbia, she returned to Virginia in 1935 and founded the Art Department at Virginia State College. In the following decades she exhibited her work in galleries in New York, Virgina, and North Carolina. Without professional education or training, she designed houses for family and friends, a 120-home subdivision in Sag Harbor and, most famously, her own home. Azurest South of 1939 (above) is a striking example of Art Moderne architecture, with smoothly rendered walls, curving ribbons of glass block, roof terraces edged with steel pipes and accessed by a ship’s ladder. All of this would be groundbreaking for any woman, let alone a biracial, and probably gay, woman in the South: one of fewer than 100 African Americans practicing architecture in America in the first decades of the twentieth century.