Historical Journal Rediscovers Long Island Woman Architect

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tjaden-and-workmenThough Olive Tjaden’s name is not known to most Long Islanders today, a mayor of Garden City in the 1930s reportedly suggested that the community be renamed Tjaden City, because she designed so many houses in the village.

Cornell University, her alma mater, named Olive Tjaden Hall for her in 1980. The story of this prolific woman architect appears in “Designing Suburbia: Olive Tjaden on Long Island,” in the recently issued Nassau County Historical Society Journal.

Tjaden had more than 2,000 commissions on Long Island during the years from 1925 to 1945. In addition to her 400 houses in Garden City, Tjaden’s many other designs included homes in Mineola, Hempstead, Woodmere, Hewlett Harbor, Great Neck, and Port Washington. She also designed religious and commercial buildings, a beach club in Atlantic Beach, and garden apartments in Lawrence.

For many years Tjaden was the only licensed woman architect in Nassau County. The authors of the article, Millicent Vollono and Lauren Drapala, researched local newspapers and Tjaden’s papers in the Cornell University Library discover her local work. Tjaden continued her architectural career in Florida after she moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1945, where she died in 1997 at the age of 92.

Volume 71 of the Historical Society’s 60-page Journal also includes four other articles. Judith Tabler’s “History of Foxhunting with the Meadow Brook Hounds,” traces the story of this sport which attracted skilled equestrians from the social elite. Beginning in 187l, the Meadow Brook Hunt was one of the most famous foxhunts in the country in its heyday.

“Oystering in Inwood, 1891,” is a contemporary account of a popular Long Island pursuit. “The Theodore Roosevelt Association Saves Sagamore Hill,” reprints a chapter from Bill Bleyer’s recent book on TR’s summer White House.

“Discovering Hempstead Town’s Country House Era,” provides a review of Raymond and Judith Spinzia’s, Long Island’s Prominent Families in the Town of Hempstead, and includes three sample entries. In the “Last Word,” the Journal’s editor Natalie Naylor includes her president’s report on the society’s activities, historical news, and book notes.

The Journal is sent to members of the Nassau County Historical Society or a single copy is available for $10 (PO Box 207, Garden City, NY 11530). The Society’s next meeting on February 5 features Paul Mateyunas speaking on Gatsby’s Gold Coast. Additional information, including the programs the Society provides for its members, is available on its website.

Photo: Olive Tjaden with workmen during the construction of her house in Garden City, 1928. Courtesy Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

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