Architect Biographies

Greely, Rose Ishbel (Isabel)

Image courtesy Jane Greely

“The whole question of landscape development—streets, parks, private places—is a matter of design. In order to create a successful whole it is necessary to think,  not so much of the individual plant, as of its place in the whole scheme. I think that the work of a landscape architect is interesting because he is dealing largely with living things that grow and change from year to year.”
November 12, 1934

Rose Greely’s childhood interest in wildlife led her to study agriculture at the University of Maryland. She also dabbled in metal works and interior decorating, but discovered a true love for architecture and landscape architecture at the Smith College, where she met Gertrude Sawyer and other women designers.

After completing her education, Greely found many different jobs: she wrote articles for House Beautiful while working as a draftsman in the office of Fletcher Steele. When she moved to DC she was employed by architect Horace Peaslee. Greely became the first licensed female architect in DC and established her own practice.

Greely was known for her residential design and city gardens which took on an Arts and Crafts style with nuances of Spanish and Colonial Revivals. Her experiences as a child and her education influenced Greely’s designs to establish harmony between the interior and exterior of the home, blurring the threshold that divides landscape from architecture. She had over 500 commissions as an architect and landscape architect, which reveals the success of the practice she had built for herself.

“I never have the same request twice. It is fun to do jobs that give you a problem  right from the beginning”
–Interview with Rose Greely” Christian Science Monitor, June 1954

Rose as infant with Mother, Henrietta C.H. Nesmith Greely 1887
Library of Congress
Adolphus Greely (1844-1935)
Portrait with her Father (1900s)
Image courtesy of Collection of Mr. & Mrs. John Greely
Rose's formal debut (1905)
Image courtesy of Collection of Mr. & Mrs. John Greely

Early Life

Rose Greely came from a military family, one of six children. Her father was General Adolphus W. Greely, the Arctic explorer. Her mother was of a well known West Coast family. Greely and her family moved frequently due to her father’s career. After her debut in 1905, the Greely family traveled for two years, visiting Europe, Central America, and Asia.

Country House Landscapes and Designs

Despite Greely’s “strict spatial organization” for city homes and gardens, she applied a more organic approach to country homes. She incorporated surrounding features of sites into her designs, smoothing the transition between the built environment and the wild with English Garden and Olmstedian principles in play. The Jefferson Patterson Estate is one example of her country home landscape design – her design is more defined at the perimeter of the home and moves out into the landscape with less detailed gestures.

“If the house is of a definite architectural period, the garden must have elements of the same character.”

from Joanne Seale Wilson’s “The Philosophy of Rose Greely”

Residence 3131 O. Street NW DC Garden (1960s)
1940 Publication: Designs for Outdoor Living
DC Folger residence 2991 Woodland Drive (1940s)
Image courtesy
MD Gore residence Marwood 11231 River View Drive, Potomac (1950)
Image courtesy Bing Maps Pictometry Bird's Eye
Residence 3131 O. Street NW DC (1960s)
Garden at Jefferson Patterson Residence by Rose Greely 1933
Maryland State Archives
Vegetable Garden and Trees at Jefferson Patterson Estate (1933)
Maryland State Archives
Vegetable Garden at Jefferson Patterson Estate by Rose Greely 1935
Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum

Related Architect Bios

Gertrude Sawyer

Timeline & Selected Projects

1887 – Born February 18, in Washington DC; Went to National Cathedral School for Girls

1905 – Completed finishing school at Finch School, NYC & formal debut

1906-1915 – Studied the following: Agriculture at Maryland Agricultural College; Art Décor at the Art Institute of Chicago for one year; Metal work in DC for two years; Silver repousse and enameling on metal in Florence, Italy for one year.

1916 – Enrolled in Cambridge School of Domestic and Landscape Architecture for Women (later part of Smith College)

1919 – Completed the landscape architecture course under Henry Atherton Frost

1920 – Completed the architecture course under Henry Atherton Frost

1921-1922 – Worked for Fletcher Steele, Staff at The House Beautiful

1923 – Returned to DC, Drafted and designed for Horace W. Peaslee

1925 – First woman licensed to practice architecture in Washington DC

1926 – Opened her own firm at 1623 H Street N.W. and later at 1701 I Street

1933 – Worked with Gertrude Sawyer at Jefferson Patterson Estate

1934 – Commanding Officers Quarters at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, Study of Planting

1935 – Her father, who lived with her, died; Moved practice into Georgetown Home

1938 – Col. and Mrs. H.P. Le Clair, Friendship, Maryland, General Design Plan for the Grounds

1940– Mrs. A. Lothrop Luttrell, Bethesda, Montgomery County, Maryland

1941 – Mrs. C.G. Van Emon, Topographical Survey, Barnesville, Montgomery County, Maryland

1942-3, 1946, 1953-5 – Mrs. L. Corrin Strong, Washington, D.C. and Gibson Island, Maryland

1949-1951 – Mr. and Mrs. Albert Walker, Westmoreland Hills, Montgomery County, Maryland

1950 – Miss Mary Gore, “Marwood Estate,” River Road, Montgomery County,  Maryland

1950-1951 – Miss Mary Gore, River Road, Potomac, Maryland, Swimming Pool Area

1951 – Mrs. Albert W. Walker, Westmoreland Hills, Maryland, General Design Plan

1951-1954 – Mrs. Philip Bard, Hurstleigh, 6 Meadow Road, Baltimore County, Maryland, Terrace and Rose Garden

1952-1958 – St. Timothy’s School, Miss Watkin’s Garden, Stevenson, Maryland

1953 – Admiral and Mrs Ralph Riggs, Rockville, Maryland

1956 – Mr. and Mrs. David Bruce, New Windsor, Carroll County, Maryland

1969 – Passed away at her home in DC

NOTE: Greely did many other projects which are included in the link above


Berkeley, Ellen Perry., and Matilda McQuaid. Architecture: A Place for Women. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1989. Print.

Birnbaum, Charles A., and Robin S. Karson. Pioneers of American Landscape Design. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000. Print.

Greely, Rose. “A House the Combines Beauty and Comfort.” The House Beautiful (March 1992): 202-03. Print.

Greely, Rose. “Rose Greely Architectural Drawings and Papers 1909-1961.” Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. University of Virginia, n.d. Web.

Greely, Rose. “Correspondence with Leighey Family.” Letter to Mrs. Leighey. 19 May 1947. pag. University of Maryland, Maryland Room.

Lawson, Joanne Seale. “Remarkable Foundations: Rose Ishbel Greely, Landscape Architect.” Washington History 1st ser. 10 (1998): 46-57. Print.

“Point Farm: Rose Greely.” Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. The Maryland Department of Planning, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.

Wilson, Joanne Seale. “The Philosophy of Rose Greely, Landscape Architect.” The Journal of Preservation Technology XXXII (2001): 39-45. Print.

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