Victorine Du Pont Homsey, FAIA
"When I stop having fun, I’ll stop practicing architecture."
Architectural Record, June 1948
Victorine du Pont Homsey, FAIA, and her husband founded their firm of Victorine & Samuel Homsey, Inc. in Wilmington DE in 1935, one of the first husband-and-wife architectural practices in the U.S. Their initial projects were concentrated in Delaware, but by 1940, they had already won a Maryland Society of Architects design award for their Cambridge Yacht Club in Cambridge, Maryland.
Their rise to fame was quick and work spread along the eastern seaboard. Architectural Record featured their office in its September 1937 and 1941 issues. The Museum of Modern Art selected their house design to represent the International Style for the 1938 Paris Exhibition. However, Victorine writes in 1941: “We certainly are not modern if that means following worshipfully the so called functional or international style…Nor do we follow with blind admiration the great designers of earlier periods. We try to work out each job as a totally separate problem and to divorce from our minds any preconceived idea of style.” Their designs held the same basic ingredients of flexibility, simplicity, and quality, an honest expression of a design solution without the use of superficial decoration.
The period they started practicing was lean: from the depression to the scarcity of materials during WWII. Victorine wrote: “We trust more vigorous architecture will be the answer to this challenge” and felt the ingenuity of the architect was to develop economical methods of building with new uses of materials. During WWII, the family relocated to Washington DC while Samuel served in the Navy. Victorine designed war worker housing for the Federal Housing Administration. She also collaborated with architect Eugene H. Klaber on projects in Greenbelt, including the North End Elementary School to address the town’s burgeoning student population. Scarcity of materials held up construction and kept the projects modest, but they included simple design touches, such as classrooms painted sunlit yellow with stacked, outward swinging windows for ventilation, even in the rain.
Victorine became a member of the Washington Metropolitan AIA Chapter in 1944, receiving a license to practice architecture in Washington DC in 1945. The couple returned to their Delaware practice soon after the war ended, but continued to have a variety of projects in Maryland. The 1960 Funkhouser Residence in Hagerstown is project they were proud of. A chance meeting in Tehran, where the Homsey’s were designing the US ambassador's residence and the Funkhousers on a world tour, produced a quick napkin sketch. Later that simple diagram would materialize into a beautiful home featured in the Baltimore Sun, designed to allow the treasures acquired on the couple’s many trips to be showcased.
Victorine credits her training at the Cambridge School in giving her skills in landscape design to suit their projects to their settings. In June 1948, Victoine was featured in Architectural Record’s “A 1,000 Women in Architecture” series. She followed in her husband’s footsteps and in 1967 was elevated to AIA Fellow. Both Homseys retired in 1979 and the office continues under the direction of their son Eldon. In 1998, Victorine passed away at the age of 97, leaving a legacy of an inspiring success story.
1900 - Born Victorine du Pont on November 27 to Antoine Biderman du Pont, Jr. & Mary Ethel Clark du Pont in Grosse Point, MI
1919 - Graduates from the Laurel School in Cleveland, OH (Photograph circa 1910 courtesy the Homsey Family)
1919-1923 - Attends Wellesley College; Graduates with a B.A. degree
1923-1925 - Attends Cambridge School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture; graduating with certificate in architecture; Award a Master’s Degree in 1935
1926-1927 - Works as draftsman at Allen and Collens, Boston, MA where she meets Samuel E. Homsey
1929 - Marries Samuel E. Homsey in April
1929-1930 - Work as draftsman at P. Patterson Smith, Boston, MA
1934 - Son Coleman Homsey born
1935 - Moves to Wilmington, DE;
- Opens firm of Victorine & Samuel Homsey, Architects;
- MD Projects: Cambridge Yacht Club, Cambridge (1936-37; Addition 1939); Oldfields Farm, Starkey Farms Ln, Galena; Includes Manor House, Manager's House, Tenant House, Horse Barn (Elevations courtesy Hagley Museum and Library);, and service buildings (1938-39)
1936 - Son Eldon Homsey born
1937 - Architectural Record features their office in September issue
1938 - Museum of Modern Art selects their house design to represent an example of International Style for Paris exhibition; Architectural Forum features Cambridge Yacht Club in October issue
1940 - Cambridge Yacht Club wins both the Maryland Society of Architects Award for Design and an Architecture League in NY award
1941 - Architectural Record features their firm is in September issue
1942-1946 - Husband serves as Navy commander in the Office of Research & Inventions for the Naval Reserve;
- Family moves to Washington, DC
1943-1945 - Principal in firm of Victorine Homsey & Eugene H. Klaber, Assoc Architects;
- Projects in Greenbelt for Federal Public Housing Authority: Service Maintenance Buildings (now Greenbelt Homes Administration building), 40-58 Hamilton Pl (1943) (Image courtesy Google Street Views); North End Elementary School (replace with Greenbelt Elementary) & Greenbelt High School Addition (Now Robert Goddard French Immersion School) (1944-45)
1944 - Becomes member of the AIA Washington Metropolitan Chapter
1944-1946 - Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, and House Beautiful Magazines publish her house designs; House Beautiful features them in Feb article “Meet the Samuel Homseys”
1945 - Receives license to practice architecture, Washington DC
1946 - Return to practice with husband; Project: McCauley Residence, Elkton;
1948 - Architectural Record features Victorine in June article “A Thousand Women in Architecture, Part II”
1954 - Husband is Juror for exhibit: Blueprint for Tomorrow: A Survey of Baltimore's Architectural Future held at Peale Museum
1954 - The Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore invites firm to take part in Expansion Competition (Not clear if they ever submitted a design)
1954 - Husband becomes an AIA Fellow
1955-1956 - Project: Camp Rodney, 400 Rodney Scout Rd, North East, for Boy Scouts of America; Addition of Kitchen & Dining Halls to Central Lodge (1963-64) (Elevation courtesy Hagley Museum and Library)
1960 - Project: Elmer N. Funkhouser Residence, Fountain Head Rd, Hagerstown; Chairs AIA Headquarters Committee
1962 - Incorporates firm as Victorine and Samuel Homsey Architects, Inc.
1963 - Project: Ambassador’s residence, Tehran, Iran; Chairs AIA Committee on the Octagon House, continuing to serve through 1972
1965 - Project: Bowie Residence, Easton
1967 - Elevated to AIA College of Fellows
1969 - AIA Journal features Funkhouser Residence & Fellowship in Sept issue (Image with husband from AIA Journal); Serve as AIA Chairman for restoration of the Octagon House in Washington DC
1971 - Baltimore Sun features Funkhouser Residence, in Aug 15 article "Oriental Flavor in Hagerstown"
1974-1975 - Project: Masonic Lodge Building for Civic Association, Chesapeake City (Additional work 1977)
1974-1977 - Serves on the Washington Fine Arts Commission (Image from Wikipedia)
1975 - Project: Tydings Residence Renovation & Addition, Gaithersburg
1979 - Project: Alterations & Addition to Fair Hill Inn’s Restaurant, Elkton
1979 - Retires with husband from practice; Gain AIA Member Emeritus Status
1980 - Travels with her husband to Beijing
1993 - c. The records of Victorine & Samuel Homsey, Inc. (1935-1992) are archived at the Hagley Museum and Library.
1994 - Firm Incorporated as Homsey Architects, Inc., led by son Eldon Homsey and Richard L. Dayton
1994 - Husband passes away
1998 - Passes away on January 6 at the age of 97