Channel, Mary Brown Architectural Collection A Guide to the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, 1936-2002, bulk 1936-1950 Ms.2007.030

A Guide to the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, 1936-2002, bulk 1936-1950 Ms.2007.030


Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Business Number: 540-231-6308

Sherrie A. Bowser

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech
Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection1936-20021936-1950
11 Cubic Feet
Channel, Mary Brown, 1907-2006
The materials in the collection are in English.
After graduating from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1929, Channel earned her degree in architecture at Cornell University in 1933. She returned to her hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia, and worked at a firm for two years before opening her own office as the first registered woman architect in Virginia. She became known for her residential and church designs. Her collection includes sketches and drawings for about 160 mostly residential projects in the Portsmouth area. Also included are some college drawings and projects.

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Many of the college drawings and projects are extremely fragile and may require conservation work prior to access.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [identification of item], [box], [folder], Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, Ms2007-030, Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Source of Acquisition

The Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection was donated to Special Collections in 2007.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection commenced and was completed in April 2010.

Biographical Note

Mary Ramsay Brown Channel was born December 8, 1907 to William Ambrose Brown and Mary Ramsay Brown of Portsmouth, VA.

She attended Randolph-Macon's Woman's College earning a bachelor of Mathematics in 1929. Channel wanted to follow her brother to the University of Virginia to study architecture, but women were not accepted into the University's graduate programs at the time. She instead applied and was accepted to Cornell University School of Architecture.

Graduating second in her class in 1933, she was also the first woman to win the Baird Prize Competition Medal. The Baird Prize was a six day design competition held by Cornell for architecture students in their junior and senior years. Channel was awarded the second prize medal for her design of a "monumental aeration fountain for the city reservoir."

Channel returned to Portsmouth, VA after graduation and began her career with the Norfolk architecture firm Rudolph, Cooke and Van Leeuwen. She drew no salary for her two years but gained valuable experience working with the team that designed the main post office in Norfolk as well as several other civic and organizational buildings. In 1935, Channel was one of three candidates in a class of five to pass the Virginia Examining Board's licensing exam becoming Virginia's first licensed female architect.

Following her licensure she opened her own practice. In October, 1941 she married local businessman Warren Henry Channel. After the birth of her first child she limited her practice to residences and churches. Channel retained her license until 1990 and was actively drawing plans into her eighties.

Channel designed structures throughout southeastern Virginia. Some of her projects include the Lafayette Square Arch housing the main entrance of the demolished American National Bank, the old Virginia Power Company Building on High Street, Channel Furniture Store in Greenbrier, numerous houses, church additions and renovations.

She was recognized in October, 1987, at an occasion honoring Portsmouth's local and statewide notables.

Mary Ramsay Brown Channel died on January 21, 2006. She was 98 years old.

Scope and Contents

The collection contains sketches and drawings for approximately 160 Portsmouth area projects, the majority of the drawings represent residential designs but churches, retail stores, and institutional buildings are also included. Watercolor class projects from her days at Cornell University School of Architecture are also present; however, these drawings are extremely fragile and may require conservation work prior to access. The materials range in date from 1936-2002 with the bulk of the materials ranging from 1936-1950.


Mary Ramsay Brown Channel did not consistently label or date her drawings. The records are arranged in a project index alphabetically by client's name. When a client's name was not available the records were ordered by project description and/or title. Any text in brackets was supplied by the processor.

In order to determine a date range for each project Channel's signature has been recorded in the project index. MRB stands for Mary Ramsay Brown and would indicate projects undertaken before her marriage in 1941. MBC stands for Mary Brown Channel and would indicate dates post-1941.

On the reverse of a majority of projects there is a number in red ink. This number appears to be an organizational scheme and therefore has been recorded on the project index. They were very helpful in bringing together drawings that had become separated from their projects. However, the researcher should note, there are several cases where the same number appears on distinctly different projects.

Related Material

There is a one page article about the acquisition of the Mary Brown Channel papers in the Fall 2008 IAWA Center News , the International Archive of Women in Architecture newsletter.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • Architects
  • Architects -- Virginia
  • Architectural drawing -- 20th century
  • Architectural drawings (visual works)
  • International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA)
  • Women -- History

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Container List

Personal Papers
  • box 1 box: A
    • Historical and ancient scenes
    • Minature portrait of a woman in a hat
  • box-folder 10 folder: 2
  • box-folder 10 folder: 1
    Program, A Celebration of Portsmouth Architecture
  • box 9
    Portrait, African-American male
  • box 1 box: A
    Reference Files[?], re: food service
  • Schoolwork
    • oversize Folder 1
      Monumental Stairs, Course 111, Major 2
    • oversize Folder 2
      Theater, Course 113
      April 1, 1933
    • oversize Folder 3
      [Naval Entrance?], Course 113, problem #5
      December 17
    • oversize Folder 3
      A Stock Exchange Building, problem #2
      November 5, 1932
    • oversize Folder 2
      A Palace for an Exiled Monarch
    • oversize Folder 3
      A Playhouse for Williamsburg, VA
    • oversize Folder 1
      Small Auditorium Entrance
Project Records
Scope and Content

The following is a sampling of architectural projects from the Mary Brown Channel Collection. For more information about each project see the complete Project Index .


The Project Index list is arranged alphabetically by Project/Client Name and contains information, where available, about the location, date, project type, collaborators, and formats for each project in the collection.

  • box-folder 3 folder: 2
    Alexander Dr. and Mrs. Lindon, residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 3box-folder 10 folder: 7
    Atkins, Miss Margaret, residence
  • oversize folder: 17
    Bain, Judge K.A., garage
  • box-folder 1 folder: 2box-folder 10 folder: 7
    Bangel, Mr. and Mrs. A.A., residence, remodel
  • oversize folder: 2
    Bishop's Palace, residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 12oversize folder: 7
    [Boyce], residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 4oversize folder: 7
    Boyce, Mr. Clinton, residence, remodel
  • box-folder 10 folder: 7oversize folder: 20
    Brooks, Mr. and Mrs. John, residence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 3
    Brown Jr., Mr. and Mrs. William A., residence
  • box-folder 2 folder: 4
    Brown Jr., William A. and Mary Ramsey Brown, residence, remodel
  • box-folder 1 folder: 3
    Brown, Mary Ramsey, beach house
  • box-folder 3 folder: 12box-folder 10 folder: 7
    Brown, Misses Myrtle and Violet, residence and remodel
  • box-folder 10 folder: 7oversize folder: 3
    Brown, Mr. and Mrs. J.E., residence and garage
  • box-folder 2 folder: 1
    Carr, Sr. and Jr., Drs. George, offices
  • box-folder 1 folder: 4oversize folder: 4oversize folder: 11oversize folder: 12
    Channel Furniture Co. Inc., logo, proposed addition and second floor remodeling
  • box-folder 4 folder: 1
    Chapman, Robert W., residence and garage
  • oversize folder: 14
    Cherry, Mr. and Mrs. A.L., residence
  • oversize folder: 4
    College Garden Apartments, residential
  • box-folder 3 folder: 10
    Cowdrey, Mr. and Mrs. Residence, remodel
  • box-folder 1 folder: 6
    Crockin, residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 11
    Darden, Miss M. A., arcade from house to stable
  • box-folder 3 folder: 19box-folder 10 folder: 7
    De Vane, Mr. and Mrs. F.D., residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 5box-folder 4 folder: 2
    Dulany, Mr. and Mrs. J.R., residence
  • box 7
    Ellis, Mr. R. M., residence and garage apartment
  • box-folder 10 folder: 4oversize folder: 6oversize folder: 15
    Emmanuel Episcopal Church, new Sunday School
  • box-folder 10 folder: 3
    Emmanuel Episcopal Church, rectory covering
  • box-folder 1 folder: 16
    First Baptist Church of Taylorsville
  • oversize folder: 5
    Fraternal Order of the Eagles #558, new home
  • box-folder 1 folder: 8box-folder 2 folder: 5
    Frohman, Mr. and Mrs., residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 4
    Glensheallah, entrance and neighborhood layout
  • box-folder 1 folder: 11
    Grice, Dr. Joseph, store front
  • oversize folder: 5
    Hamilton, Mr. Norman, residence, remodel into 6 family apartment
  • box 5oversize folder: 11
    Harcum, Mr. and Mrs. O.L., residence
  • oversize folder: 9
    Harrell, Mr. and Mrs. O.L.
  • box-folder 2 folder: 4box-folder 3 folder: 6box-folder 10 folder: 7
    Hatcher, Maynard, residence
  • map case folder: 3
    Hill, Mr. and Mrs. J. Robbin, residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 7oversize folder: 5
    Hundley, Mr. and Mrs. J. Bowden, residence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 8box-folder 2 folder: 5
    Jones, Dr. and Mrs. T. Elmore, residence, Crawford Place
  • box-folder 1 folder: 6
    Joy, Mrs. J.H., two family house
  • box-folder 1 folder: 9
  • oversize folder: 5
    Kempsville Church
  • box-folder 3 folder: 6
    [Kline, Buddy], residence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 11
    Landerburg's Department Store, new store front
  • oversize folder: 3oversize folder: 6
    L'Anson, Judge, residence
  • box-folder 10 folder: 8oversize folder: 16
    Lawler, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 9
    Lawrence, Mr. and Mrs. Frank, rear porch for residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 16box-folder 10 folder: 8
    Levitin, Mr. and Mrs. A., residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 13
    [Littleton], addition to residence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 10
    Maupin, Mr. and Mrs. William G., addition to residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 8box-folder 4 folder: 3
    McCready, Mr. Harry, residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 9box-folder 10 folder: 9
    Meads, Dr. and Mrs., proposed porch
  • box 5
    Meads, Dr. Vincent, offices
  • box-folder 3 folder: 3
    Methodist Church
  • oversize folder: 1
    Mitchell, Mr. and Mrs. H.R., residence
  • oversize folder: 20
    Payne, residence
  • oversize folder: 13
    Pivot, Mr. and Mrs. Wood, residence
  • oversize folder: 9
    Richel's Fur Shop, store front
  • oversize folder: 8oversize folder: 18
    Riddick Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Alfred T., residence
  • oversize folder: 4
    Rodman's [Bar-B-Q restaurant], alterations and additions
  • box-folder 1 folder: 9
    Sears Shop, alteration and additions
  • box-folder 3 folder: 14
    Shadrick, Thomas, H.W. Brown Florist, addition
  • box-folder 3 folder: 14
    Shadrick, Thomas, Camp Robert Hunt
  • oversize folder: 2oversize folder: 10
    Shepard, Mr. and Mrs. T. H., residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 9oversize folder: 10
    Shepherd, Mr. and Mrs. Richard, residence
  • oversize folder: 5
    Smith, Esq. C.G., residence
  • box-folder 2 folder: 3box-folder 3 folder: 16
    [Smith, J.J.], bungalow
  • box-folder 3 folder: 10
    Smith, Mr. Lawrence, remodeling of apartment
  • box-folder 3 folder: 19
    Smith, Oscar, pantry
  • box-folder 3 folder: 16
    [Snyder], residence
  • box-folder 2 folder: 6
    St. Andrews Church, proposed plans for Sunday School
  • box-folder 1 folder: 12box-folder 10 folder: 5oversize folder: 2oversize folder: 8oversize folder: 10
    St. John's Episcopal Church, proposed addition to Sunday School and Parish Hall
  • box-folder 10 folder: 5oversize folder: 3oversize folder: 9oversize folder: 19
    St. Luke, Episcopal Church, proposed Sunday School and Parish house addition
  • box-folder 1 folder: 13box-folder 2 folder: 7
    St. Paul's Episcopal Church, addition to parish house
  • box-folder 3 folder: 11
    Stedhens, Mr. and Mrs., residence
  • oversize folder: 7
    Stimpson, Miss Mary, residence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 14box-folder 2 folder: 8
    Stokes, Mr. and Mrs. R.M., residence, remodel
  • box-folder 1 folder: 15box-folder 2 folder: 9box-folder 10 folder: 9
    Syer, Mr. and Mrs., residence and garage
  • box-folder 1 folder: 5box-folder 2 folder: 2box-folder 10 folder: 9
    Tuberculosis Clinic
  • oversize folder: 9
    Virginia Electric and Power Co., preliminary sketches
  • box-folder 3 folder: 12
    Walker, Mr. and Mrs. J.F. and son, residence
  • box-folder 10 folder: 9oversize folder: 8
    Warner, Mrs. T. D., residence, remodel
    Historical Note

    There is a discrepancy in the client name. The plans list the client as Mrs. F.D. Warner while the specifications (Box 10, folder 9) list the client as Mrs. T.D. Warner. Special Collections has received communication from the family of Mrs. Warner and they confirm that the house was remodeled for Mrs. Thomas Dickens Warner.

  • box-folder 2 folder: 10
    Waters Esq., C.R., residence
  • box-folder 1 folder: 18
    Webb, Mrs. and the Misses Ponton, two family apartment
  • box 6
    Whittle House
  • box-folder 3 folder: 17
    Willet, Mr. and Mrs. H.I., residence
  • box-folder 3 folder: 11
    Winborne, Mr. and Mrs. Waverly, addition to residence
  • oversize folder: 2oversize folder: 10
    Wiseley, Dr. and Mrs. Martin, residence
  • box 6
    Wishart House
  • And other unidentified materials (see Project Index for full details)