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Ellamae Ellis League House,
Macon, Georgia

Exterior views of the Ellamae Ellis League House
Photos courtesy of Jim Lockhart, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division

Located in the Shirley Hills neighborhood northwest of downtown Macon, Georgia, the Ellamae Ellis League House is the self-designed residence of accomplished Georgia architect Ellamae Ellis League (1899-1991). Important in the areas of architecture, social history and women's history as League's private residence during her long and productive career, the house is an excellent and intact example of her work. Ellamae Ellis League was a pioneering woman in the architectural profession during the early 20th century in the South, where "acceptable" professional roles for women were then generally limited to school teaching or running a boardinghouse. League's architectural firm was one of the largest in Macon, unusual not only for a woman architect of the time, but for architectural firms in general, most of which were one- or two-person operations.

Ellamae Ellis League became an architect by necessity. Divorced at age 23 with two small children, in 1922 she entered a profession for which she had no prior training. Coming from a family with six generations involved in architecture, she joined the Macon firm of Dunwody & Oliphant as an apprentice and remained there for four years. During that time, League also took correspondence courses from the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in New York City, a school modeled after the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France. Inspired by French architecture, she left her children with their grandparents and studied a year (1927-1928) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Fontainebleau. For two years after she returned from France, League worked for another Macon architect, but by 1933 she had decided to become a registered architect. State registration required a degree in architecture or 10 years experience in the office of a practicing architect and successful completion of an extensive exam. Although she lacked the engineering background that was part of the examination, she received a ''crash course" in that area with her uncle's help. Initially failing the design portion of the test (not an unusual occurrence), she persevered, retook it and passed.

[Photo] Looking through window from inside the Ellamae Ellis League House
Photo courtesy of Jim Lockhart, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division

In 1934 only two percent of American architects were women. It was in this year that League began to build a successful practice in her own name, one that would continue for more than 40 years. She hired many young architects, giving them a start in the profession. In contrast to most women architects who ran one-woman offices and specialized in residential architecture, she took on a variety of jobs including Public Works Administration commissions. She designed many churches, schools and hospitals, but her firm--eventually known as League, Warren & Riley by the mid-1940s--did not establish its own distinctive design but followed the Ecole des Beaux-Arts philosophy of "designing something that answers the need of the owner as far as function is concerned and which is pleasant to look at for both the owner and the public." Her daughter Jean Newton followed her into architecture and practiced with her mother for a while, continuing her career into the 1980s.

In 1940, with both children in college and no longer any need to live close to work and their schools, League designed and built herself a home in a new suburb, the Shirley Hills area of Macon. In a 1981 interview League recalled "I had an aversion to using the local red brick used by most Macon homebuilders . . . I decided to use California redwood siding and red roof shingles for a more mellow color, and also for permanence provided by no other wood." League's residence is an asymmetrical frame house with a split-level floor plan with a built-in garage on the basement level, living spaces on the first level and two bedrooms on the second level. The house is a reflection of the architect who designed it to suit her own needs and who lived there until her death in 1991.

Interior of the Ellamae Ellis League House
Photo courtesy of Jim Lockhart, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division
League applied to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and was selected in 1944. She established the Macon Chapter of the AIA in 1957 and was its first president. She was elected an AIA Fellow (FAIA) at the national convention in 1968 in Portland, Oregon, and at the time of her death in 1991, League remained the only woman FAIA in Georgia and one of only eight nationwide. Among her many accolades she received the Ivan Allen Senior Award from the North Georgia Chapter of the AIA for her work on the Macon Grand Opera House restoration when she retired in 1975 at the age of 76. She was also awarded the AIA Bronze Medal, the highest state award given by the AIA--previously it had only been given to five architects other than past presidents of the AIA. In 1982, the Georgia Association of the AIA presented the Bernard B. Rothschild Award to League, which is the highest honor award by the Georgia AIA and is given for the most distinguished service to the profession of architecture in the state. The nomination of the Ellamae Ellis League House is part of an ongoing Georgia statewide initiative to identify, document, evaluate and preserve historic places associated with women's history. As such, this house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 15, 2005.

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