This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the accomplishments of the first woman to have her own architectural practice on Nantucket, Eliza Codd.
Eliza Codd was born on Nantucket on February 27, 1882. She grew up in the fine Greek Revival home at 14 Orange Street. Her father, William F. Codd, was a noted engineer and surveyor. As a child she frequently accompanied her father on surveying visits and from a young age showed an interest in measurements in line.
After attending secondary school in Bordentown, New Jersey, Eliza graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in architecture in 1904. While a student at MIT, she won the Rotch prize for best academic record. She returned home to Nantucket and began her architectural practice. According to the Inquirer and Mirror, “many of the modernized old houses of Nantucket bear the impress of her skill in conserving the characteristics of Nantucket architecture while adding the requirements of modern times.”
Eliza was dedicated to public service. In 1918, she volunteered to help control the flu pandemic on Nantucket as an assistant to William Wallace, the island’s Special Emergency Health Agent. She volunteered with the Red Cross in World War I and, following the conclusion of the war, traveled to France under the auspices of the YMCA to teach mechanical drawing to US army soldiers and aid in rebuilding.
While living on Nantucket, Eliza converted a c.1870 stable on her family’s Orange Street property into a cottage dwelling. Her cottage, 2 Stone Alley, is a recognizable landmark along one of Nantucket’s iconic pedestrian lanes. For the past three and a half years, a proposal to radically alter the structure with a large addition has been in front of Nantucket’s Historic District Commission. The plans did now follow the guidelines set out in Building with Nantucket in Mind. The HDC commissioners repeatedly asked for revisions to draw the proposed addition to the west, away from Stone Alley, and to create a mass that was subordinate to the original building. Various rounds of revisions made subtle changes to the plans, but the proposed addition remained more than double the size of the original dwelling and continued extending southward, parallel to Stone Alley. On Friday, March 5, the HDC voted unanimously to deny the application, citing failure to address the commissioners’ concerns.
When Eliza passed away in 1920, at only 38 years old, her friend Mary Ella Mann wrote that in her short life, “She served humanity; for in the high position that she achieved in her profession she elevated the standard of women’s work in the world. We who knew her and loved her best are proud and grateful to remember her as a representative woman of Nantucket.” In voting to deny the inappropriate addition to Eliza’s home at 2 Stone Alley, the HDC has voted to protect a physical testament to the legacy of Nantucket’s pioneering first female architect.