Eleanore Kendall Pettersen – Influential Architect

Eleanore Kendall Pettersen (b.1916)

Jersey gem: From Passaic County

Eleanore Pettersen was an architect and the first New Jersey woman to open her own architectural firm. A graduate from Cooper Union in 1941, Pettersen used her Certificate in Architecture to secure an apprenticeship with renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Once her incredible professional opportunity with Wright had ended, Pettersen refocused her efforts to WWII. She worked with the National Defense Research Committee in Princeton, NJ to analyze enemy building structures for bombing purposes. A few years later, Pettersen left for New York City to pursue a job designing shops and exhibits for Macy’s Corporation.

As a woman, Pettersen found herself in what was at the time a male-dominated field. She felt that she was often challenged to prove her talents, but found that being a woman did not interfere with her ability to find employment. In 1952, Pettersen purchased a barn in Saddle River for her residence and own architectural practice. At this time, she was the only woman architect in New Jersey with her own office.

Pettersen also served as president of the Altrusa Club, a service organization for business and professional women, in Bergen County from 1968-70. She filled the position again from 1978-80, and for two years was also governor of District Two which comprised six states and Ontario. During the 1980’s, Pettersen was the first female president of the New Jersey State Board of Architects and the first female president of the New Jersey Society of Architects.

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