First Woman Licensed as an Architect in North Carolina

Georgina Pope Yeatman (1902-1982)
(Article from Pioneering Women Architects in North Carolina*)

Born in 1902 in New York, Georgina Yeatman came from an English family who  immigrated to America.  Her father Pope Yeatman, a successful geologist for the Guggenheims, was unusually supportive of her independence and professional goals.  For example, Yeatman wanted to be an airplane pilot.   She learned to fly in Philadelphia and by 1921, her parents built her a landing strip at their farm in Jaffrey NH. 

Yeatman attended the University of Pennsylvania, obtaining an AB degree in 1922 at just 20 years old. There she played field hockey and basketball and founded the Women's Athletic Association.  She continued on to pursue a BA degree and by 1924, she was the first woman to complete coursework in architecture.  She did not graduate, however.  The University of Pennsylvania refused to issue an architecture degree to a woman.  Undaunted, Yeatman enrolled at MIT, which had no problem with gender.  There she earned a BS in Architecture in 1925.

In 1928, she worked for Bissell and Sinkler and was the the first woman to practice architecture in Philadelphia.  When that firm struggled financially, they asked her to take over as President.  She joined the AIA in 1930.  From 1936-1940 she was the City of Philadelphia's first woman Director of Architecture.  In 1937, feeling guilty, the University of Pennsylvania finally awarded her the degree she richly deserved.

Nothing held her back.  She travelled widely.  According to her daughters Barbara and Mel, she also travelled to Panama, India, Egypt, and Africa.  While flying over North Carolina, she admired the land north of Beaufort and starting in 1936  began accumulating property.  She began with an old estate purchased from the  University of Chicago.  Yeatman made the former Metcalf hunting club house into her home and added two wings that she personally designed.  It was originally located by the South River and Eastman's Creek.  She built a dirt airstrip and hangar on two hay fields near the house.  During WWII, to protect her planes from possible German takeover, she stored them inland at Mount Olive NC. She stopped flying in the 1940's.

By 1954, she sold the family farm in Jaffrey NH and moved their entire Guernsey dairy operations to Beaufort, eventually controlling over 45000 acres she called Open Grounds Farm.

To avoid hurricanes and flooding, she moved the house five miles inland in the early 1960s to Yeatman Lane near Merrimon Road.  According to her daughter Mel, the house was still there in 2009 but was long ago abandoned.  According to Ward King, who grew up in Open Grounds, it is in poor condition.

Because of the intense heat in eastern NC, Yeatman also owned a house in Asheville at 353 Midland Drive.  She owned a house in Beaufort in Hancock Park  on Live Oak Street as well, from which she had a phone.  The farm had its own water and electricity but no phone or permanent utilities until the mid 1950's.
She was the very first woman to be registered as an architect in North Carolina.  Beyond what was on her farm, she did not design any buildings in North Carolina.

By 1974, she was CEO of one of NC's largest farm operations.  That year she sold Open Grounds, except for a few hundred acres including her house, to the Ferruzzi Group of Italy.  The Italians grew the property to be the largest farm east of the Mississippi.  The Italians built a second airstrip near the house in the late 1970's.  This shows up on Google Maps just south of Yeatman Lane.

Yeatman was a major donor to NCSU and East Carolina University.  According to her niece, Georgene Yeatman Taylor, she never married but in her 40's she adopted two girls, Grace (now known by her birth name as Barbara) and Mildred (who later changed her name to Mel).  They called her Nini.  Their nanny was Mary Brimmer.

Her business partner was Mildred Mulford (who died around 1980), whom she met in an architect's office in Philadelphia.  Her close friend was Tom Wright, NC Episcopal Bishop.  Grace Wilson, Mulford's sister, lived with them for a time.   According to Ward King, Yeatman could do anything.  "She was an excellent surgeon, cutting a fish hook out of my finger.  It hurt but she fixed it.  She hunted and fished and shot ducks with us all the time."

Sources include:  Open Grounds Then and Now by Ruth P. Barbour, daughter Barbara Jean Yeatman, daughter Mel Yeatman, Ward King, nanny Mary Brimmer. 
*Above article quoted from: Pioneering Women Architects in North Carolina, Triangle Modernist Archive, Inc. Google map added by Mary Warshaw 

Architectural historian Tony P. Wrenn wrote an article on  Georgina Yeatman: "Those Amazing Architects"