Virginia McAlester

Virginia McAlester

Virginia Savage McAlester is an American author, architectural historian, preservationist, and political activist. She is best known for her book A Field Guide to American Houses, a standard guide to American home styles.

McAlester has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University where she attended Radcliffe College and completed the first year curriculum of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her first major work was A Field Guide to American Houses (1984), written with her then-husband Lee McAlester.  Using text, line drawings and photos, the book breaks down each American house style in a clear, concise manner suitable for amateurs, students, and professionals; it has since become a standard text on American home-architecture and remains widely considered the first and best such book.  It was named one of 1984’s ten most outstanding reference books by the American Library Association and received an honor award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In late 2013, a revised, updated, and greatly expanded second edition will be released.

Her other books include Great American Houses and their Architectural Styles; A Field Guide to America’s Historic Neighborhoods and Museum Houses: The Western States; and  Homes of Park Cities, Dallas: Great American Suburbs.
McAlester has been a leader in historic preservation, both nationally and in her hometown of Dallas. In 1984, she formed an advocacy group called Friends of Fair Park that successfully petitioned to protect and preserve the permanent buildings in Fair Park, the Dallas site of the Texas State Fair and Cotton Bowl. These buildings, originally constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, remain one of the largest collections of Art Deco architecture, art and sculpture in the world.

McAlester was also a founding member of Preservation Dallas (formerly the Historic Preservation League) and served on the planning committee for the State-Thomas neighborhood, which re-introduced the concept of dense mid-rise residential development with ground-level retail. She serves as an Adviser Emeritii for The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and has served on the board of Preservation Dallas, and on The Dallas Landmark Commission.

Homes of the Park Cities, Dallas

Great American Suburbs

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A beautiful and comprehensive chronicle of two of America’s earliest and most luxurious suburbs: Highland Park and University Park, Texas.

Dallas local Virginia McAlester, author of Random House’s A Field Guide to American Houses, the classic book on the subject, and Abbeville’s celebrated Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles, teamed up with Prudence Mackintosh and Willis Cecil Winters to write Homes of the Park Cities, Dallas. This impressive and informative case study immerses readers into the architecture and culture, both past and present, of these classy neighborhoods.

Illustrated with over 280 specially commissioned photographs, in addition to over 75 maps, graphs, and archival images, this insightful work covers the history and development of Dallas’s suburbs, as well as the architects who designed them. Homes also features several appendices, providing notes on how to preserve early-twentieth century homes and a catalogue listing over 1,600 homes by address and architect. McAlester authored an additional appendix that illustrates the architectural styles found in The Park Cities, which run the gamut from Tudor and Colonial Revival to Minimal Traditional and Mid-Century Modern.

As grand as the houses it chronicles, Homes of the Park Cities, Dallas will fascinate architects, historians, suburbanites, and would-be suburbanites alike.

 

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Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles

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A sumptuously illustrated, authoritative introduction to the principal architectural and decorating styles of the American house, from Colonial times to the mid-twentieth century.

In this lavishly produced volume, authors Virginia and Lee McAlester explore outstanding landmark houses that exemplify America's major architectural and interior design styles from Colonial times to the mid-twentieth century. These twenty-five houses are illustrated with more than 350 specially commissioned full-color photographs of interior and exterior views, 125 black-and-white line drawings and floor plans, historical paintings, and vintage photographs

The text not only discusses the houses' architectural innovations and design elements but also profiles the architects and their clients. The featured houses were built by many of the country's leading architects — from Alexander Jackson Davis, Richard Morris Hunt, Henry Hobson Richardson, and McKim, Mead and White to Frank Lloyd Wright, the Greene brothers, and Walter Gropius — and owned by some of its most celebrated citizens, including Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Jay Gould, the Guggenheims, the Phippses, and the Vanderbilts. As a result, the book is as much a cultural history as it is an architectural study. The authors also include an informative discussion of each style as it can be seen in vernacular versions around the country.

Located all over the United States, most of the featured houses are open to the public, and the book provides their addresses and other helpful information for visitors. Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles will be irresistible to all house lovers, architects, and designers, and will give readers a deeper understanding and appreciation of our rich architectural heritage.

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