History series focuses on architect

Louise Bethune, America’s first professional female architect, will be discussed by Kelly Hayes McAlonie.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center concludes the spring installment of its Chautauqua County History Lecture Series on Thursday at 7 p.m., with an exploration of Louise Bethune, America’s first professional female architect.

A 2023 book by a University of Buffalo architect uncovers and explores previously unknown aspects of the largely veiled life and career of Buffalo’s Louise Blanchard Bethune, architect and designer of Dunkirk’s Brooks Mansion, now the current site of Brooks Hospital.

Kelly Hayes McAlonie, FAIA, UB director of campus planning, will discuss her book, “Louise Blanchard Bethune: Every Woman Her Own Architect,” as part of the lecture series.

Until now, Bethune’s accomplishments have never received thorough examination and treatment. Several factors contributed to that obscurity, including the loss of Bethune’s personal and professional papers, along with her firm’s construction documents and office records. For years, only one photograph of her was known to exist. Male architects also had what Hayes McAlonie calls a “collective amnesia” regarding the early work of the women who broke the profession’s gender barrier.

But Hayes McAlonie’s discovery of new archival material has allowed her to develop the first full portrait of Bethune’s trailblazing career in the male-dominated architectural profession.

“Bethune was a woman of her time, but she remains a woman of our time, a historical figure with profound contemporary relevance,” says Hayes McAlonie.

Dedicated ambassador of the profession, staunch advocate for gender equity and visionary leader, Hayes McAlonie has elevated the appreciation of architecture by developing education initiatives and advocating for design excellence in public architecture. She has devoted her career to educational architecture, advancing the profession, and telling Louise Bethune’s story.

Admission to the lecture is free, with donations gratefully accepted. Opera House programming is made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and the Ralph Wilson Jr. Arts & Cultural Initiative as administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center is a member-supported not-for-profit performing arts center with a mission to “present the performing arts for the benefit of our community and region … providing access to artistic diversity … and high-quality programming at an affordable price.” It is located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.fredopera.org.


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