Written by Roberta Washington, FAIA, Jacqueline Taylor, PhD
Early life and education
Amaza Lee Meredith was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1895. She was the youngest of four children (three daughters and one son) born to Emma Kenney and Samuel Meredith, a carpenter. Because her father was white and her mother black, Amaza’s parents could not be legally married in Virginia. The two traveled to Washington, DC, in racially segregated railroad cars to wed. Samuel Meredith lost much of his business as a result of his controversial marriage and took his life in 1915. That was also the year Amaza completed her early schooling and graduated at the top of her class. She went on to get her teaching certificate from Virginia State University.
Career in Architecture
Amaza’s artistic endeavors included interior design and architecture. She coordinated color schemes and created blueprints for buildings at Virginia State. In 1939 she completed a house in Petersburg, Virginia for herself and her partner in the International Style and named it Azurest South. In 1993 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. International Style is attributed as having a complete break with architectural traditions. Her work on the modern home is most notably praised for its success in the overwhelmingly traditional architectural environment of Virginia. She also designed homes for friends and family in Virginia and Texas. Together with her older sister, Maude, Amaza created a development of 120 vacation homes for blacks in Sag Harbor, NY named Azurest North.
In 1984, Amaza Lee Meredith died.
Major Buildings and Projects
- Azurest South – A five-room, single-story dwelling; can be classified with other residences designed in the International Style: a place for living, devoid of applied ornament or historic references. Azurest South has clean lines and a strong geometry emphasizing regularity rather than symmetry. The flat roof, designed as a terrace, is highlighted by plain metal coping, and by steel pipe rails, all painted a bright turquoise/azure hence the name Azurest. Dramatic use of color; vivid patterning of walls, floors, and ceilings; and the use of inventive lighting fixtures characterize the interior design.