About the Project

This research project began in 2011 as a master's thesis (M.S., Historic Preservation), which was published in 2012 as Specialization and Significance: Assessing the Career and Works of Minerva Parker Nichols (Master's thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 2012).

As I have continued the project after graduation, pulling on each thread in a growing network of people, buildings, and professional associations connected to Minerva Parker Nichols, I have benefited tremendously from the interest and expertise of many others, including Bill Whitaker and Heather Isbell Schumacher, Aaron Wunsch, the Trainer family, and several property owners for Minerva-designed buildings. Most importantly, this project took on new life when I connected with Minerva Parker Nichols' own descendants, and most especially Carrie Baker. In recent years, I have benefited from the financial support of the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation; with their support (and the creativity of several collaborators), I produced a podcast series and companion video shorts. I am grateful to everyone involved for their shared passion and support for this project.

This project is an ongoing one; the research continues, and this website will evolve as we learn more about Minerva Parker Nichols' life and work.

About the Researcher

Margaret (Molly) Lester is the Associate Director of the Urban Heritage Project at the University of Pennsylvania's Stuart Weitzman School of Design. In addition to her role with the Urban Heritage Project, Molly was a 2019/20 Fellow for the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation based on her media project related to Minerva Parker Nichols. She is also a 2020 grantee of the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, she worked as a freelance architectural historian and preservation planner, an editorial assistant for the University of Pennsylvania’s Change Over Time journal, a national program director for Partners for Sacred Places, and an architectural historian/historic tax credit consultant for Heritage Consulting Group. She is an occasional contributor to the Hidden City Daily, an online publication covering design and preservation issues in Philadelphia, a former co-chair of the steering committee for the Young Friends of the Preservation Alliance, and the founder of the InKind Baking Project. 


She holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Architectural History from the University of Virginia.

Background photograph by Kaitlyn Levesque