Skip to main content

Leila Ross Wilburn visual arts materials

Collection number: ahc.VIS72

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the prolific work of one of Atlanta’s pioneer women architects and businesswomen. It is comprised primarily of architectural plans, photographs, negatives, and slides of private residences, multi-family homes, and apartment buildings Wilburn designed during her career. Her portfolio of architectural plans in Series I includes designs of homes in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs; in several cities and towns in Georgia, including Forsyth, McDonough, and Thomaston; and in the surrounding states of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Many of the photographs in Series II consist of images of multi-family homes she designed during her initial years as an architect. With very few exceptions, the material in this collection is undated. Other photographs feature buildings designed by two other women architects in Atlanta, Barbara Crum and Merrill Elam.


  • 1920-1979


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

This material is protected by copyright law. (Title 17, U.S. Code) Permission for use must be cleared through the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. Licensing agreement may be required.

Administrative/Biographical history

Leila Ross Wilburn (1885-1967) was born in Macon, Georgia, to Joseph Gustavus Wilburn (1864-1910) and Leila Ada Ross (1854-1937). The family moved to Atlanta during the 1895 economic depression. After studying for two years at Agnes Scott Institute, she served a two-year apprenticeship as a draftsman at Benjamin R. Padgett and Sons, an architectural and building firm. She began her career in 1909 as only one of two women architects in Atlanta. Her portfolio was exclusively residential and included duplexes and apartment buildings as well as single-family houses for a burgeoning Southern middle-class. She designed residences in many of Atlanta’s suburbs throughout the state of Georgia and in several surrounding states. Wilburn marketed her talents by selling plan books to individual clients and to contractors, builders, and developers who ordered her plans for their own construction. Her career spanned 55 years, over which time she designed more than 300 residential structures. Susan Hunter Smith and Sarah J. Boykin co-wrote a comprehensive biography of Wilburn and her work, Southern Homes & Plan Books: The Architectural Legacy of Leila Ross Wilburn, in 2018.


638 item(s) (435 architectural drawings, 122 black and white photographic prints, 46 black and white negatives, 28 color slides, six plan books, four color photographic prints, two negative books, and one cyanotype)



System of Arrangement

This collection is arranged in two series: (1) Architectural plans, and (2) Photographs. Both series are arranged alphabetically. Control numbers are intentionally out of order to maintain alphabetical order.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Some items in this collection are located in cold storage (CS) as indicated by the descriptive inventory. Patrons must allow 24 hours after retrieval of item(s) before viewing material.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1989

Description Control

This collection was processed in 2002.

Leila Ross Wilburn visual arts materials
Kate Daly and Vivian Cannella
July 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305