The Hostess House and the Female Architect (…and Mississippi)

During the time of war many organizations provide relief services to troops and their families.  World War One was no exception, and while most of these programs were strictly social aid there were a few brick and mortar projects.  The most successful of these was the Y.W.C.A’s Hostess House.  The idea came about with the military buildup when the U.S. entered the Great War.  The mission of the Hostess House was to provide a location on base for soldiers to entertain visiting parents, wives and children.  Prior to its creation troops had no place to entertain guests on base.  As the program gained success and spread to multiple military camps, the Hostess House buildings expanded from a simple ‘living room” type space to also include dining and overnight facilities. Since many training camps were isolated, these additions made longer visits possible.

Rendering of Fay Kellogg Pearson's Magazine February 1911

Another interesting fact of the Hostess House was that a great number of the buildings were designed by three female architects; Julia Morgan (1872-1957), Fay Kellogg (1871-1918), and Kathrine C. Budd (1860-1951).  In a time before women had even the basic right of voting, success in any Professional Practice was extremely difficult.  Morgan famously became the first woman allowed to enter from the prestigious French architecture school the Ecole-des-Beaux-Arts, graduating in 1902.  Kellogg had a successful Private Practice in New York and was an active supporter of women suffrage.  Budd was a prolific writer of art and architecture as well as being one of the first women admitted into the New York State Chapter of the AIA in 1916, and the national AIA in 1924.

Morgan and Kellogg likely became acquainted when they were both living in Paris attempting to gain entry to the Ecole-des-Beaux-Arts.  Kellogg possibly introduced Morgan and Budd in New York.  This may have been the beginning of the relationship that led the three women to work on the Hostess House project.  In 1917 the Y.W.C.A. approached Budd, commissioning the Hostess House projects.  She split up the projects by territory, with Morgan taking the West, Kellogg taking the East, and Budd taking the Middle-West for herself.  Budd often stated that the buildings were to be of a distinctively American design.  For the Hostess House project she was influenced by the American barn, as these structures have large spaces and are inexpensive to construct.  The images of the built Hostess Houses show styles and layouts drastically different from one another, but the interiors contain essentially the same type of spaces.

In the October 1918 edition of the periodical Architecture, Budd wrote an article regarding the role of the Hostess House.  In the article she states that the first Hostess House was built in Plattsburg N.Y. in June 1917.  The article also features photographs of a large Hostess House at Camp Mills on Long Island (Camp Mills and Camp Upton in New York and Camp Merritt in New Jersey had larger than usual Hostess Houses as they were embarkation points for Europe and were the site of many final good-byes.)

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By this point you maybe thinking this is all well and good but what does this have to do with MISSISSIPPI, get to the good stuff?!  Well Camp Shelby was one of the training facilities to receive a Y.W.C.A offer of having a Hostess House built.  I have not found much information on this specific Hostess House other than one advertisement regarding the award of its construction contract.

This ad caught my attention twice.  Firstly that Katherine C. Budd might have been the first Professional female architect to have a building built in Mississippi, and secondly that she almost wasn’t.  With any good story there is always a plot twist.  Mississippi did not fall in to Budd’s territory; the Southeast should have been Fay Kellogg’s.  How did Budd end up with this project?  While in Atlanta supervising construction of the Hostess House at Camp Gordon during the spring of 1918, Kellogg suffered a nervous break down.  Going back to her home in New York City did not help in her recovery and she died on July 18, 1918.  With the war still going on Katherine Budd picked up the slack, designing the Camp Shelby Hostess House and in the process becoming to first Professional female architect with a building in Mississippi.  For the Y.W.C.A. commission she went on to design or alter 72 of the 96 Hostess Houses built.

I do not believe that the Hostess House stands at Camp Shelby today.  In January of 1919 Camp Shelby became one of 33 demobilization camps.  After the Military’s demobilization, of the 1200  buildings built at Camp Shelby all but 4 were demolished.

Do any Miss Pres readers out there have any information regarding the Camp Shelby Hostess House?  If you have a photo or story please share!



Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Military

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  1. Fay Kellogg, ambitious architect - Amazing Women In History

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