Happy Birthday Elizabeth Evans Rivard (1899-1988)
Amanda Elizabeth Evans Rivard was born in Kansas City on February 7, 1899 to William Reese and Grace Truman (nee Crouch). A short time later the family moved to Lawrence. Rivard expressed interest in designing houses at an early age and intended to study at the University of Kansas. World War I interrupted, there was a shortage of men, so she took a course in drafting then found summer employment with the drafting department of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad in Parsons, Kansas. Parsons was a main line junction between two army posts and map tracings of troop movements was crucial to the war effort. The head draftsman wasn’t too keen on having a woman in the drafting room, but her skills were needed.
The office was set above the railroad tracts where she could see long lines of flag-draped coffins on flatcars carrying soldiers home. The head draftsman would wait until the trains rumbled by with a deafening noise to walk over to Evans and give her instructions. She gained confidence from the experience and after the war, resumed her studies at KU. At the school of architecture, she studied historical styles and practiced in the Beaux-Arts style with little instruction on the modernist movement. Her professor, who would always sigh at her work and say: “Evans, why can’t you draw more like a man” entered her work in many Beaux-Arts competitions and used her initials “A.E. Evans” to mask her gender. She earned several Mentions, First Mentions, and a First Mention Placed.
In 1921 she became the second KU student and first female student to win a Beaux-Arts Institute of Design award for her design of a small chapel on a country estate. She was became the first woman to graduate from the school of architecture and engineering in 1922 with honors.
Few firms at that time were willing to hire a woman as an associate architect. The summer before graduation, she worked for Hoit, Price & Barnes Architects, but they had no position for her once she graduated. She found brief employment with firms specializing in shops and schools, but Evans wanted to build homes. In 1923 she moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to accept a position with the R.L. Falkenberg & Company who specialized in high-quality individually designed homes — something different than the vast mail-ordered plans of the time. The two brothers, graduates of MIT, saw the value of a woman’s insight into requirements needed for a new home. Evans specialized in moderately sized homes for first-time home buyers and young families. She was mindful of the efficiency of an interior plan and embraced John Ruskin’s philosophy that houses should be designed for those who live inside their walls. In the course of her ten-year career (1923-1933) with Falkenberg, she designed about 35-50 homes in the Crestwood, Country Club and Westwood Hills distrust. One of her homes, 2024 West 49th Terrace, designed in 1929 in Westwood Hills won the residential category of the annual awards of the Kansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, (under the name A.E. Evans). The speaker at the awards ceremony stated that women should not work in architecture.
The following year, she married Melvin Rivard, a Kansas City engineer and businessman. They lived in Fairway, Kansas and she worked only part time retiring from the profession in 1933 to raise her family.
She designed 2101 West 49th Street for herself in 1926 and lived here until 1986. She passed away February 9, 1988.
Rivard received a distinguished alumna award from KU in 1980. She was a member of the American Association of University Women and the PEO Sisterhood.