Pettersen, Eleanore Kendall

Eleanore Kendall Pettersen

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Dates of Birth and Death



Passaic, New Jersey


  • Cooper Union, B.A. in Architecture, 1976
  • Institute for Construction and Design, 1950-1951
  • Taliesin Fellowship, 1941-1943
  • Cooper Union, Certificate in Architecture, 1941
  • National Park Seminary (H.S. diploma), 1934

Years of practice

1944–1974 (estimated)

Professional organizations

  • Joined AIA in 1954
  • Became AIA fellow in 1991

Location of architect’s archive

The International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Related websites


New Jersey, New York, commercial, interiors, residential


Early life and Education

Eleanore K. Pettersen was born in Passaic, New Jersey in 1916. Pettersen lived in New Jersey and attended Cooper Union in New York, originally planning to be a painter. She graduated with a Certificate in Architecture in 1941, later completing her B.Arch degree from Cooper Union in 1976. She died January 18, 2003 in Saddle River, New Jersey.

Career in Architecture

After finishing her certificate in architecture, Pettersen worked for Frank Lloyd Wright as a draftsman, and later as an apprentice at his Taliesin and Taliesin West studios between 1941 and 1943. Pettersen’s experience is documented in the BWAF film “A Girl Is A Fellow Here ~100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright(2009). In 1950, Pettersen became the first woman licensed as an architect in the state of New Jersey, where she completed the majority of her 600-plus projects. As the first woman to open her own architecture practice in NJ in the early 1950s, she took on major projects such as a large 15-room house in Saddle River that became the post-White House home of Richard Nixon. She ran her architecture firm and design business (Eleanore Pettersen, A.I.A., and Design Collaborative) out of a converted barn in Saddle River, NJ. She was the sole principal of her firm for over 38 years. Pettersen was licensed in seven states, including New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.

Major Buildings and Projects

  • Swartley Residence, Pine Lakes, NJ (1967) – A one-story retirement house with partial upper and lower levels located on a peninsula of a small private New Jersey lake. Great attention was paid to site relationship, open flowing spaces and open ceilings.
    • The Alford/Nixon House, Saddle River, NJ (1967-71) – A 9,000 square foot, two story residence on four acres, originally designed for community leaders who entertained on a large, lavish scale. Size was a problem, 150′ x 135′, the residential scale needed to be maintained, hence the cruciform plan. One never perceives the building in its entirety. The house was a residence of former president Richard Nixon after he left the presidency.
  • Simmons Residence, East Hampton, NY (1971) – Most notable about this project is the guesthouse that was forbidden by zoning. By connecting a guest facility with a roofed fence, approval was granted. Entrance is through a walled garden. Site planning provided space for future bridal tents. Residence follows, in some respects, a shingle-style, once manifested in this area.
  • Marks Residence, Truro, MA (1976) – A retirement home situated on a hill overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Materials: Wood frame construction and red cedar siding. From the 2nd level, one can view Cape Cod Bay & the valley beyond. The angles & vistas through the tower openings offer constant surprises. Interior of the building reflects the intersecting towers, creating dynamic, top lighted spaces. One feels free, yet enveloped.
  • Bear’s Nest Townhouse Complex, Park Ridge, NJ (1983) – A development of 212 town homes with a  design concept of “lost memory” Tudor. A high-luxury, 4-storied building with custom designed units for buyers. The site plan was influenced by a traditional English village setting. Buildings were clustered around courts to enable easier identification. Great attention was paid to preserving many of the existing trees.
  • Van Ness Residence, Saddle River, NJ (1983) – A designed home with the intent of separating automobiles from the house via the stoned entrance court and water garden, thus creating a sequential progression from public to private spaces. This was achieved by a widespread “U” plan.
  • Ainsfield Residence, Saddle River, NJ (1983) – A modified “U”-shaped retirement house, partially dug into the land. A multi-level party deck descends to a tennis court and swimming pool. All major rooms face south and east.

Press and Awards

  • Received the Michael Graves Lifetime Achievement Award from AIA-New Jersey, 2010.
  • Received Fellowship into the American Institute of Architects, 1991.
  • Girl Scout Council of Bergen County Woman of the Year, 1976.
  • North Jersey Architectural Award for single family dwelling from the North Jersey Cultural Council and Architects League of Northern New Jersey, 1967, becoming the first female to receive this award.
  • Professional Achievement Citation from Cooper Union, 1965, becoming the first female recipient of this esteemed honor.

Institutional Affiliations

  • Cooper Union, Eleanore Pettersen Annual Lecture Series (beginning in 2004-2005).
  • Regional Director to AIA Board 1986-1989.
  • President (first woman president) of New Jersey Society of Architects, 1984.
  • President (first woman president) of New Jersey State Board of Architects, 1975-1976.
  • President of the American Institute of Architects, NJ Chapter, 1975.
  • Member: New Jersey Turnpike Beautification Program, NJ Energy Crisis Commission, NJ State Uniform Construction Code Committee, Saddle River Planning Board.
  • Bergen County Housing Authority, affordable housing program.
  • Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture.

Media About

  • Guggenheimer, Tobias. A Taliesin Legacy: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Apprentices. (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1995).
  • ‘A Girl is a Fellow Here’ ~ 100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. Dir. Beverly Willis. Eleanore Pettersen is one of six featured subjects in the 19-minute documentary film.  (Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, 2009. DVD)


  • Ageless Perceptions IV: Senior Women in Architecture (1991), New York, NY. Featured drawings and photographs of buildings and projects designed by seven senior women architects at the SOHO20 Gallery. Guest Curator Alta Indelman, AIA. Featured Eleanor Raymond, Sarah Pillsbury Harkness, May Callas, Zelma Wilson, Anne Griswold Tyng, Vassia Kiaulenas, and Eleanore Pettersen.
  • Eleanore Pettersen A.I.A. Four Decades (1991), New Milford, NJ. One-woman show with drawings, photographs and models at the Arts Center of Northern New Jersey, to celebrate women’s history month.
  • A Taliesin Legacy: The Independent Work of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Apprentices (1992), New York, NY. Featured drawings and photographs of twenty of Wright’s apprentices at the Pratt Galleries Curator Tobias Guggenheimer. Featured Peter Berndtson, E. Thomas Casey, Alden Dow, Arthur Dyson, Aaron Green, Phillip Hawes, David Henken, John Howe, Elizabeth Wright Ingraham, E. Fay Jones, Henry Klumb, John Lautner, Charles Montooth, Robert Mosher, Stephen Nemtin, William Wesley Peters, Eleanore Pettersen, Anthony Puttnam, John Rattenbury, and Edgar Tafel.


  • The annual Eleanore Pettersen lecture series began at Cooper Union in 2004-2005. It was established through a generous donation to The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. The lectures, dedicated to the voices of women in architecture, highlight the significant contributions of women to the discipline and profession of architecture, will be a lasting tribute to Ms. Pettersen, her significant impact in the world of architecture, and her love of The Cooper Union.