STORY TEXT BY PAM VANDERPLOEG COPYRIGHT 2019. Banner Image American Bridge.net.
The post-World War II era was one of huge advancements in science and technology. The Mackinac Bridge, a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of the U.S. state of Michigan, opened in 1957, and, at 26,372-feet-long, the bridge is the world's 22nd-longest main span and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.
Did you know that a Grand Rapids architect and University of Michigan graduate named Marion Blood who was working in Pittsburgh for the American Bridge Company, was an engineering draftswoman who worked on the bridge working drawings.
This is her story.
Grand Rapids architect and engineer Marion Frances Blood was born in Grand Rapids on March 31, 1900 and graduated from Central High School in 1918. She lived at 609 Wealthy Street SE. Blood had an extraordinary talent and wanted to study architecture. She was encouraged by mentor and architect Kenneth Welch, Grand Rapids first official City Planner, to attend the University of Michigan where she lived in the Martha Cook Dormitory, still in use today as a woman’s dormitory. Blood graduated in 1924 and won the coveted UM Booth Graduate Prize in Architecture which paid for her to travel in Europe for eight months of independent study-travel traveling to Paris and France to study architecturally significant buildings and to England to study landscape architecture.
When she returned to Grand Rapids, she began designing homes for popular architect Alexander McColl, first as a draftswoman and, once she became a registered architect, she worked as an associate architect for McColl. This stage of her career that lasted until about 1939. By 1942 Marion Blood was working as an Engineering draftswoman, designing defense guns and tools. After a few other professional positions, including teaching architectural skills to veterans, she was drafting plans for the American Bridge Company and that included plans for Michigan’s own Mackinac Bridge.
There is more to this story - so check back.
Learn more about Marion Blood and other Grand Rapids women architects working from 1920 through the 1970’s on Saturday, October 5 at 1 pm at the Klise Chapel at East Congregational church. Pam VanderPloeg is partnering with the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council on this presentation and walking tour of 1920s women-designed homes in the Ottawa Hills and the adjacent East Grand Rapids neighborhood. Registration is required for this free event. Click here to register today!