Minerva Nichols

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Years of practice

1890–1939 (estimated)

Related websites


Biography from the American Architects and Buildings database.

Minerva Parker Nichols is the best-known woman architect working in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Philadelphia. She won the International competition for the Queen Isabella Pavilion intended to be erected for the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago, IL. Although her design was never constructed, and Sophia Hayden’s Woman’s Building was erected instead, the resultant publicity did much to increase the reputation of Nichols in both the Philadelphia and national press. Nichols had been born in Chicago, IL, the granddaughter of architect Seth A. Doane; and she had the example of her mother’s role in his office to set a standard for her own work. After an early education in St. Josephs Convent, Dubuque, IA, she studied architecture at the Franklin Institute Drawing School, receiving honorable mention in the Class of 1884/85 and her certificate after attending four terms at the School. Following graduation she entered the office of E. W. Thorne. When Thorne moved to Arch Street in 1888, Nichols succeeded him in his office at 14 South Broad Street in 1888. Although she made residential architecture a specialty, she designed several women’s Century Clubs in the Philadelphia area. In addition to her successful practice, Nichols lectured on historic ornament and classic architecture in the Women’s School of Design in Philadelphia (now Moore College of Art.)

In 1891 she married the Rev. William J. Nichols, and in 1896 they moved to Brooklyn, NY. After this time Nichols’s practice was limited to work for relatives and friends, and she never actually reopened her architectural offices. At the time of her death she was supervising construction of a residence designed for her older daughter.

Press and Awards

  • Jennings, Jan. “Leila Ross Wilburn: Plan-Book Architect.” Woman’s Art Journal 10 (Spring/Summer 1989): 10-16. (See the reference to Nichols on p. 16, note 18.)
  • Ragosta, Millie J. The House on Curtin Street. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1979. (A novel including Minerva Parker Nichols.)
  • Torre, Susanna. Women in American Architecture. New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1977.
  • “Victorian Career Woman Inspires Gothic Novel.” Victorian Homes (Spring, 1982): 59-60.
  • Willard, Francis E. A Woman of the Century. NY: Chas. Wells Moulton, 1893, p. 536-537. (includes a photograph of Nichols)
  • “A Woman Architect.”  The Daily Picayune 3 May 1890: pg. 9 Issue 99 Col. B.
  • “A Woman on the Woman’s Building.” American Architect and Building News 38 (10 December 1892): 170.