view all images ( of 3 shown)

Female, born 1897-10-13, died 1987-08-04

Associated with the firms network

Ayer and Lamping, Architects; Ayer, Elizabeth, Associates, Architects; Cross and Cross; Ivey and Riley, Architects; Ivey, Edwin J., Architect, Elizabeth Ayer, Associate; Willatzen, Andrew C.P., Architect

Professional History


Office Assistant, Edwin Ivey, Architect, Seattle, WA, c. 1919. She noted that she had been an "office boy" in Ivey's office between 1918 and 1934. (See "Ayer, Elizabeth," American Architects Directory, 1956, George S. Koyl, ed., [New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1955], p. 19.)

Office Assistant, Andrew Willatsen, Architect, Seattle, WA, c. 1921

Draftsperson, Ivey and Riley, Architects, Seattle, WA, c. 1921.

Draftsperson, Cross and Cross, Architects, New York, NY, c. 1922-1923.

Draftsperson, Grosvenor Atterbury, Architect, New York, NY, c. 1922-1923. Atterbury was a Yale-trained architect who produced country houses for the upper-middle and upper-classes of the New York metropolitan region. He also had an interest in city planning.

Draftsperson / Designer, Edwin J. Ivey, AIA, Architect, Seattle, WA, 1921-1940. Ayer maintained a long architectural relationship with Edwin Ivey (1883-1940), working with him until his death. She took over the Ivey firm as Head in 1940. Her obituary indicated that she became partners with the younger architect, Rolland Denny Lamping, in 1945. (See "Elizabeth Ayer Dies; Longtime Architect," Seattle Times, 08/06/1987, p. D16.)

Partner, Ayer and [Rolland Denny] Lamping, Architects, Seattle, WA, 1945-1970. She retired in 1970.

Professional Service

Ayer was the first woman registered as an architect in the State of Washington, 1930.

Member, American Institute of Architects, Washington Chapter / Seattle Chapter, 1938-1970.

Member, City of Seattle Board of Adjustments, Seattle, WA, 10 years.

Member, Lacey Planning Commission, Lacey, WA, 3 years.

Professional Awards

Inductee, University of Washington, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Roll of Honor, 2007.


Ayer's papers have been deposited at the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division. Drawings of many of her houses, such as the Hawthorne K. Dent House, Seattle, WA, are held in this collection. It also has a scrapbook that Ayer created of her time as a student in the UW's Department of Architecture. "It includes depictions of her life as a student, as well as minimal newspaper coverage of women in architecture. Students Marshall Gill, Wally Strang, Sam Chinn, Buck Bradley, Bob McClelland, Frederick Lockman, Joe Skoog, Rosalie Haas and Jannus Bonnell are featured prominently, as well as Carl Frelinghausen [sic] Gould (1873-1939), founder of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. The scrapbook contains candid photographs of architecture students studying and at leisure. Additional photographs depict the students' architectural plans and school projects. Many of the photographs have been annotated by Ayer." (See "Elizabeth Ayer Scrapbook, 1917-1919." UW Libraries Catalog, Accessed 10/21/2011.)


High School / College

Graduate, Bush Grade School, Olympia, WA. (See "Elizabeth Ayer Dead at 89," The Olympian, 08/06/1987, p. 14.)

Graduate, Olympia High School, Olympia, WA, 1916.

B.Arch., University of Washington, Seattle, 1916-1921. She was the fourth graduate of the UW Department of Architecture and the first woman to graduate. She was admitted to the UW architecture program two years after its inception.

College Awards

Recipient, Kellogg Prize, Third Place Award, University of Washington, Department of Architecture, Seattle, WA, 1919-1920.

Recipient, Kellogg Prize, First Place Award, University of Washington, Department of Architecture, Seattle, WA, 1920-1921.



Early in life, Elizabeth lived with her mother and four brothers on a farm in Chambers Prairie, a rural area southeast of Olympia, WA. Her father Charles, a Superior Court Judge in Olympia, passed away when she was less than one year old. Following Judge Ayers death, her mother, Cora, ran a family farm lining the Deschutes River with her brother-in-law, Robert A. Ayer (born c. 01/1867 in CT), who lived in the household according to the 1900 US Census. (See, Source Information U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012, accessed 03/10/2022.) Cora and her children continued to operate this farm on Chambers Prairie Road, as per the 1910 US Census. (See, Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: Chambers Prairie, Thurston, Washington; Roll: T624_1672; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0297; FHL microfilm: 1375685, accessed 03/10/2022.)

In 1920, Cora lived with Elizabeth and John, both students at the University of Washington, in an apartment building at 4215 Brooklyn Avenue, in the University District. This was not unusual for a parent, often the mother, to reside with children while they attended college. Presumably, the farm in Chambers Prairie was being run by one or more of her brothers at the time. (See, Source Citation Year: 1920; Census Place: Seattle, King, Washington; Roll: T625_1925; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 77, accessed 03/10/2022.)

After college, Ayer worked for about two years in New York, NY, 1922 and 1923. She returned to Seattle by about 1924.

Between 1928 and 1940, at least, Ayer lived with her mother, aunt, Louise Ayer (born c. 1865 in CT) and brother in a house at 5308 Gold Court in Seattle's West Seattle neighborhood. The house had a value of $5,500, just slightly above of surrounding residences. (See, Source Citation Year: 1930; Census Place: Seattle, King, Washington; Page: 60A; Enumeration District: 0197; FHL microfilm: 2342236, accessed 03/08/2022.) By 1940, Elizabeth lived with her aunt, Louise Ayer (born c. 1865 in CT) and her brother John at 5308 Gold Court. According to the 1940 US Census, Louise, John and Elizabeth all had completed college, with John also having had two years of graduate school. (See, Source Citation Year: 1940; Census Place: Seattle, King, Washington; Roll: m-t0627-04383; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 40-325, accessed 03/10/2022.)

Ayer moved from Seattle to Lacey, WA, in about 1970, where she became active in civic affairs. (See "Elizabeth Ayer Dead at 89," The Olympian, 08/06/1987, p. 14.) Her last independent residence was in the 98503 zip code of Olympia, WA. She lived at her death at the Panorama City Convalescent Center, Lacey, WA, near where she had grown up. Ayer died of a stroke at age 89.


Ayer's family came to the Washington Territory in 1852, making them very early Euro-American settlers in the Puget Sound region.

Her mother, Cora J. Ellis (01/13/1867 in Port Madison, WA-d. 10/05/1936 in San Francisco, CA) managed the household and was an artist. Her parents were Isaac Ellis ((born c. 1835 in ME) and Martha Connor (born c. 1845 in MO). Isaac, born in ME, worked as a logger. By 1870, he was relatively well-to-do, owning $10,000 in real estate and possessing a personal estate of $6,000. The family resided in Olympia, WA, according to the 1870 US Census. (See, Source Citation Year: 1870; Census Place: Olympia, Thurston, Washington Territory; Roll: M593_1683; Page: 227A, accessed 03/10/2022.)

Her father was the lawyer and jurist Charles Henry Ayer (born 04/25/1862 in Old Saybrook, CT-d. 03/09/1898 in Olympia, WA).

Elizabeth was the youngest of five children, her siblings all being male. They included: Edwin Travis Ayer, Sr., (born 04/23/1892 in Olympia, WA-d. 06/04/1982 in Thurston County, WA), Ellis Chase Ayer (born 08/04/1893 in Olympia, WA-d. 03/10/1979 in Olympia WA), John Youngs Ayer (born 06/22/1896 in Olympia, WA-d. 04/20/1982 in Olympia, WA) and Richard Charles Ayer (born 10/12/1894 in Olympia, WA-d. 05/06/1981 in Lacey, WA).

John joined the US Army on 01.04/1918 and was discharged on 05/05/1919. (See, Source Information U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 03/10/2022.)


Ayer never married.


Ayer had no children. She was survived by six nieces and nephews.

Biographical Notes

Ayer traveled with her mother in Europe in 1927-1928. They returned aboard the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT) steamship, S.S. Rochambeau, from Le Havre, France to New York, NY, between 09/01/1928 and 09/10/1928. (See, Source Citation Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 10; Page Number: 191, accessed 03/10/2022.) In 1955, she indicated that she had toured England, Scotland, France, Italy and Austria. (See "Ayer, Elizabeth," American Architects Directory, 1956, George S. Koyl, ed., [New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1955], p. 19.)

Member, Washington State Historical Society.

Member, Daughters of Pioneers, Olympia Chapter.

Member, Seattle Soroptimist Club.

Charter Member, Olympia Genealogical Association.

SSN: 532-03-9364.

Associated Locations

  • Olympia, WA (Architect's Birth)
    Olympia, WA

    OpenStreetMap (new tab)
    Google Map (new tab)
    click to view google map

  • Lacey, WA (Architect's Death)
    Lacey, WA

    OpenStreetMap (new tab)
    Google Map (new tab)
    click to view google map

PCAD id: 2607