What Minerva Built is a limited-series podcast with companion video shorts,

produced with support from the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation

Episode 0


Introducing "What Minerva Built," a special podcast about architect Minerva Parker Nichols, and what she can teach us about the work of architecture, preservation, and history.


Episode 1

Lady Architect

When she died in 1949, architect Minerva Parker Nichols was memorialized in the New York Times with a headlined obituary—no small feat. This episode traces the lifelong themes of Minerva's work, beginning with her childhood in Peoria, Illinois, and her architectural education in Philadelphia.


Episode 2


This episode places Minerva Parker Nichols in context with her design peers, male and female, and examines her path into the field in the context of other early women architects. It considers why we focus so strongly on the “pioneers"— setting them apart as individuals without situating them as fully participating members of the profession.

Transcript  |  Mentioned in this episode: Where Are the Women Architects?

Episode 3


This episode looks at Minerva's overall portfolio and her specialization in residential architecture, including the principles of her design philosophy and the common features of her designs. Her approach to architecture cannot be separated from her approach to the profession, so this episode takes full account of her competency and the ways in which her training factored into her projects.

Transcript  |  Mentioned in this episode: Cranaleith Spiritual Center

Episode 4


Minerva's career dovetailed with the emergence of women’s clubs in the late 19th century, and her designs for three women's clubhouses created new hubs of social action for white American women. These projects were pivotal commissions for Minerva, expanding her network of available clients, and she enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with many of her clients.

Transcript  |  Mentioned in this episode: Delaware Children's Theatre; Move Over B.O.B.


Produced and written by Molly Lester

Produced and edited by Justin Geller

Music by Justin Geller

Editorial advising by Samantha Kurland

Additional advising by Ashley Hahn,

Heather Isbell Schumacher,

Bill Whitaker, and Kelly Whitton

Voiceovers by Kimberly Chantry,

Michael Bacon, Elizabeth Lester-Abdalla,

Alexander Lester-Abdalla, Kathryn Lester-Bacon,

Graeme Peterson, and Neil Peterson

Video Shorts

Produced and written by Molly Lester

Produced and edited by Kaitlyn Levesque

Music by Justin Geller

Editorial advising by Samantha Kurland

Additional advising by Heather Isbell Schumacher and Bill Whitaker

Interview + Filming Location Partners

Carrie + Patrick Baker

Linda + Angie Ferber Bickell

Heather + Derek Bodenstab

Angela Cacace

Mary Werner DeNadai

Sarah Dreller

Nicole Dress

Efrie Escott

Jazz Graves

Nan Gutterman

Kathy Holden

Ken Lustbader​

Cory Kegerise

Susan Kolber

Ruth Picozzi

Monica Rhodes

Heather Isbell Schumacher

David Seator + Kirsten Lett

TJ Scully + Judy Lustig

Despina Stratigakos

Donna Swajeski

Sister Mary Trainer

Fon Wang

Christine Witkowski + Dan Berkowitz

Aaron Wunsch

Episode 5


Grounded in practical apprenticeship training, Minerva supervised construction on all of her design projects. This episode takes a closer look at that particular aspect of Minerva's competency, and considers how women navigate the construction site day.


Episode 6


One of Minerva's highest-profile projects was a pavilion commissioned by the Queen Isabella Association, to be built for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. A series of political maneuvers by the fair's organizers ultimately cost Minerva the project and led to the breakdown of one of her colleagues in the profession, Sophia Hayden. This episode examines the ways in which the profession of architecture has for over a century written the definition of an "architect" so that women are left out.

Transcript  |  Mentioned in this episode: Equity by Design; Women in Architecture, Philadelphia AIA; Penn Women in Design

Episode 7

Memory Loss

The collective forgetting of Minerva Parker Nichols is not an isolated case. This episode take a look at three other case studies in which under-represented communities have been overlooked, including a re-examination of Edith Farnsworth's house in Plano, Illinois; the work of the New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project; and the mission of H.O.P.E. Crew.

Transcript  |  Mentioned in this episode: Curtained Walls/The Vanishing Porch in Perspective, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, H.O.P.E. Crew

Episode 8

What Minerva Built

The final episode of the series takes a look back at Minerva's surviving records, in the form of her drawings and extant buildings. It sheds new light on the influence that Minerva has continued to wield for over a century, through her life, teachings, writings, and most importantly, her work.

Transcript  |  Mentioned in this episode: Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office; Cranaleith Spiritual Center; Delaware Children's Threatre