Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, 1936-1978, bulk 1936-1950 Channel, Mary Brown, Architectural Collection Ms2007-030

Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, 1936-1978, bulk 1936-1950

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms2007-030


Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694

© 2009 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Sherrie A. Bowser, Special Collections

Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, 1936-1978, bulk 1936-1950
Physical Characteristics
8 containers; 3 map cabinet drawers 14.0 cu. ft.
Mary Brown Channel
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

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish from the Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

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

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Mary Brown Channel Architectural Collection, Ms2007-030, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Acquisition Information

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 Information

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 Content

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 1936-1978 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.

Index Terms


  • Channel, Mary Brown, 1907-2006.
  • Subjects:

  • Architects--Virginia.
  • Architectural drawing--20th century.
  • Women architects--Virginia.
  • Women-owned architectural firms.
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Architectural drawings.
  • Blueprints.
  • Occupations:

  • Architects.

Contents List

Project Index

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.

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

    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.

  • Waters Esq., C.R., residence
  • Webb, Mrs. and the Misses Ponton, two family apartment
  • Willet, Mr. and Mrs. H.I., residence
  • Winborne, Mr. and Mrs. Waverly, addition to residence
  • Wisely, Dr. and Mrs. Martin, residence
  • And other unidentified materials