Elizabeth Wright Ingraham

Elizabeth Wright Ingraham was a visionary modern architect who pioneered in a field dominated by men—most notably her famous grandfather and father. As a Colorado community and environmental activist-educator, she promoted responsible design by founding the Wright-Ingraham Institute and Running Creek Field Station, a model of outdoor education heralding wise resource use. In a career spanning over six decades as a Colorado architect, Ingraham made breakthroughs in her profession and in women’s equality. She co-founded and served as president of the Colorado Women’s Forum and was an inspiration to professional women, aspiring students, and her own three daughters.

Immersed in architecture from childhood and seemingly destined to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and her father, architect and Lincoln Logs-creator John Lloyd Wright, Elizabeth suffered sexual inequities early. Her step-grandmother prevented her dream of studying at Taliesin—her grandfather’s Wisconsin studio—on gender grounds. Elizabeth made sure of her own architectural education, served as a draftsman for the World War II Navy, and married Gordon Ingraham, an architect who had studied at Taliesin. They moved to postwar Colorado Springs and formed Ingraham and Ingraham, Architects, in which Elizabeth was a full partner while raising four children. Colorado’s arid but beautiful environment influenced her designs.

Architecture was a man’s profession. Initially listed second to her husband in the firm, Elizabeth gradually claimed her designs and her leadership role. In their firm and later independently, she designed well over 100 unique Colorado buildings, including Colorado Springs’ Vista Grande Community Church, the first building in the state to use Thermomass, making it innovatively “green.” She championed environmentally responsible design in Colorado. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) had long excluded women members. Yet ultimately, Elizabeth served as the president of the Colorado AIA and became one of few women AIA Fellows. She also served on the advisory board for the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, thus protecting his legacy.

In Her Words