Custer, Betty Lou

Betty Lou Custer

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Dates of Birth and Death



St. Louis, Missouri

Years of practice

1941–1991 (estimated)

Professional organizations

  • Joined AIA in 1951
  • Became AIA fellow in 1972




Early Life and Education

Betty Lou Custer was born in St. Louis, MO in 1922. She received a degree from the Mary Institute, St. Louis, MO, in 1939 and Pine Manor Junior College, Wellesley, MA, 1941. She later got her B. Arch from Washington University, St. Louis, MO, School of Architecture in 1944. AIA Membership: St. Louis Chapter, 1951 – 1965 She started her own firm, Betty Lou Custer, AIA, Architect, St. Louis, MO

Early Career

Neal J. Campbell, Consulting Engineer, St. Louis, MO, 1944-50. Trained for architectural registration and worked on all types and sizes of buildings. Served in every capacity from initial client conferences to supervising construction. Left because AIA required employment by an architect. Harris Armstrong, FAIA, Kirkwood, MO, 1950-52. Worked mostly on residences and gained valuable experience and training. St. Louis County Planning Commission, Clayton, MO, 1952-54. Prepared studies on housing, community development, land use and zoning. In addition, was in charge of public relations, designed several exhibits, did extensive research, and wrote a dozen booklets and reports, some of which were published and widely distributed to promote interest and development in St. Louis County. Subjects included: Housing Facilities in the Jefferson Barracks Area of St. Louis County; Fire Protection in St. Louis County; St. Louis County Owned Buildings and Property (suggestions for future development); research for 1954 County Bond Issues. Worked closely with chairman of Planning Commission.

Institutional Affiliations

  • AIA National Corporate member, 1951
  • Member, AIA National Scholarship Committee,
  • National Convention Steering Committee, 1964
  • AIA, St. Louis:Director, 1971-73
  • AIA, St. Louis: Secretary, 1970-71
  • AIA, St. Louis: Chairman of Membership Committee, 1952 and 1961-68
  • AIA, St. Louis: Chairman of County Housing Committee, 1954
  • AIA, St. Louis: Chairman of Public House Tour Ad Hoc Committee, 1959-61
  • AIA, St. Louis: Chairman of Women’s Activities, 1959-60
  • AIA, St. Louis: Press Coordinator, 1969-71
  • Association of Women in Architecture, joined 1944, National President, 1950-52; Editor
  • Women’s Advertising Club of St. Louis, joined 1954, Board of Directors, 1958-60, chairman of four committees, 1958-71
  • Women’s Architectural League, St. Louis, joined 1960, Board of Directors, 1960-71; press chairman and editor of newsletter, 1965-71; two terms each as Vice President and chairman of Program Committee
  • Historical Association of Greater St. Louis
  • Landmarks Association of Greater St. Louis
  • Missouri Historical Society of St. Louis

Recipient of President’s Award in 1963 for “…outstanding accomplishment as Membership Committee Chairman” and in 1970 for “…originating and coordinating the highly successful Architects’ Sunday Program.”

Significant Work

“I do not consider myself outstanding in design, but have tried to contribute to the advancement of the profession by undertaking work which I am capable of and sincerely interested in doing; and by undertaking work only when I can do a complete job including supervision of construction; and at a fee adequate for the time and experience necessary to do a superior commission regardless of size. I have refused at least five times as many jobs as I have done in the past ten years, because I will not deviate from my standards”

  • John T. Fouke Residence, 1954
    • The entire two-story servants’ quarters wing of this residence burned to the ground. On the existing foundation, we built a one-story family room which included built-in aquarium, TV, hi-fi, study, and storage areas, in addition to the usual family room facilities. This room was on several house tours before the Foukes moved to Greenville, SC, two years ago.
  • Paul R. Wielandy Residence,7440 University Dr., St. Louis, MO, 1953
    • This kitchen was a major remodeling job and involved removing a main bearing wall and revamping hot water heating pipes to first and second floors to combine former kitchen, breakfast room, and butler’s pantry into a functional “joy to work in” kitchen. New ideas at the time of its design were the peninsula range top and file boxes mounted under the planning counter for recipes.
  • Oscar Norling Residence, 425 N. Hanley Rd.,Clayton, MO, 1955
    • This house, built in 1913, had been the victim of “do it yourselfers” when the present owners acquired it. Work included new entrance with adjacent planting beds, built-in storage wall and book/magazine storage/display in the entrance, changing the location of the stairs to the second floor and the basement, remodeling the fireplace and kitchen, all on the first floor, and remodeling of son’s room, guest room and study on the second floor.
  • Twin Oaks Duck Club, St. Charles County, MO 1958
    • Early 1900’s farm house was remodeled to include separate first-floor quarters for each of the five owners, lounge-type living room and separate dining-card room, which included an unusual built-in bar and two pass-thrus to the living room.
  • Women’s Advertising Club Headquarters, Chase Hotel, St. Louis, MO 1959
    • Requirements for this job included providing space for board meetings, entertaining small informal groups, and storage of an insurmountable amount of club record books, etc. To give a feeling of spaciousness, the walls, draperies, and upholstery were in soft willow-green. The mammoth folding screen was designed for a two-fold purpose: to provide hanging space for the club’s many achievement plaques, and to screen the built-in filing cabinets and storage shelves. This remodeling and decorating was done with a very limited budget using the club’s battered furniture and labor provided by the hotel.
  • Joseph G. Petersen Residence, 20 Portland Place,St. Louis, MO 1960
    • This gracious mansion was designed by the late Louis LaBeaume in 1927 for the son of David R. Francis. Work done in1960 to satisfy the needs of the present owners: complete remodeling of second floor servant’s wing into an apartment for the son, remodeling of sewing room and service room on second floor into a bath and dressing-lounge room for the wife, making a powder room and lavatory out of a long narrow first floor hallway, and supervising redecoration (excluding furniture) of the entire first and second floors. Fortunately, the original hand-made French wallpaper in the entrance and stair hall was in satisfactory condition and could be repaired.
  • Library Reading Room St. Louis, MO 1962
  • Jefferson Memorial Building, for the Missouri Historical Society
    • Quoted from Missouri Historical Bulletin, July 1962: “…the Reading Room on the second floor of the east wing has been completely transformed in the recent remodeling designed by Miss Betty Lou Custer. Formerly, the walls were lined with a miscellany of unmatched cases, and no provisions were made for modern equipment and library practices. Now, the beautiful walnut double bookcases from the 1872 library of Maryville College have been skillfully adjusted so as to panel the entire room, and give it unity and dignity. The walls have been painted a soft green, and the windows have been shuttered to match. Wall shelves have been built in at either end of the room, to give working space for routine library chores, and for using dictionaries and other large reference books. One of the wall cases at the east end of the room has been converted into a special magazine rack for the display of current historical journals and similar publications of interest to scholars. The original brass chandeliers and wall brackets, designed by Isaac Taylor, architect of the building, have been refinished and lacquered to prevent tarnish. An oriental rug provided by a generous benefactor adds a touch of luxury, and cuts down on noise. The offices at either end of the reading room, used by our librarian and reference librarian, have been painted the same willow green as the reading room and have been equipped with matching shutters, and built-in shelves. For greater security, a new entrance wall has been constructed near the entrance hall leading to the reading room and stacks….” “It is hoped that in the future, funds will be made available for suitable tables and chairs to complete the renovation of the room.” I might add that the walnut cases of 1872, although they appeared identical in size and detail, varied in both height and depth from fractions to several inches. There were no two identically alike and only because of a superb team of carpenter craftsmen (who were later honored by the St. Louis Chapter, AIA) was this job able to be completed as the architect desired.
  • Architect’s Own Studio, 7440 University Dr. St. Louis, MO, 1964
    • This former basement playroom, then rathskeller, was stripped in 1954 to provide a studio-work area for B.L.C. August 1964, the walls of bookshelves were built. This is an example of a light comfortable (cool in summer and warm in winter) work room with every necessary convenience obtained for a nominal cost with a minimum of maintenance. 


(Data from AIA Archives)