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JUDITH DAVIDSON CHAFEE, FAIA (1932-1998)

Chafee was born in Chicago. Her mother, Christina Affeld Davidson, studied archaeology and anthropology. Chafee's birth father, Percy Davidson, died before she was born but maintained investments for his family. Shortly after her mother remarried Benson Bloom, the family moved to Tucson AZ when Chafee was 2 years old. In the late 1940s, Chafee attended the Parker school in Chicago for two years. She earned a visual arts degree at Bennington College in 1954. During her sojourn at Bennington, she benefited from mentors Howard Nemerov, Paul Feely and Alexander Dorner who with his wife Lydia became second a second family, introducing her to Walter Gropius. She worked in New York, as a magazine editor and in a hardware store, and took classes at the New School, studying with reknown sculptor Seymour Lipton. By 1956 she enrolled in the School of Architecture at Yale University under Paul Rudolph. In 1959 she was the first woman to win the Koppers Architectural Student Design Competition - for a 150-bed community hospital for Fairfield CT. However, the award ceremony was held in a men's club and Chafee had to go through the kitchen to receive the plaque.

From 1959-1964, she was married to Richard Chafee, an architectural historian she met at Yale. She received a BA and MA in architecture from Yale in 1960 as the only woman in her class and went on to work for firms such as Eero Saarinen, Paul Rudolph, Edward Larrabee Barnes, and Walter Gropius. Notably she worked on the TWA building at JFK. She briefly had a private architectural practice in Hamden CT then in 1969, Chafee returned to Tucson to start her own firm, producing mostly single family residences. Among other awards, Chafee won the Academy of Rome fellowship to study architecture in Italy in 1977. She taught for many years at the University of Arizona, and she was a visiting professor at the University of Texas, the University of Washington St. Louis, and MIT. Her archives are at University of Arizona Special Collections. KUAT of Arizona produced the video documentary The Architect, Judith Chafee in 2016. Chafee was featured often in Sunset Magazine. There are about 35 houses. Bio adapted from Wikipedia and the Beverly Willis Foundation. Thanks to Catherine Westergaard Cramer for her research.


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1969 - The Ruth Merrill House, 51 Andrews Road, Guilford CT. Featured in Architectural Record Houses of 1970, the first woman to have a project featured on the cover. 7500sf. Structural engineer, Associated Engineering; interiors, Christina A. Bloom; built by Erwin C. Griffiths; photos by John T. Hill. Sold to Paul and Meg Johnson. Sold in 2019 to 51 Andrews Road LLC, controlled by daughter Gwendolyn Johnson.


1970 - The Robert Funking Vacation House, aka Midnight Train to Funking Hill, 421 Furnace Road, Richmond MA. Near West Stockbridge. Inspired by a Pullman train car. Built by Carleton Anderson; photos by John Hill. Featured in Architectural Record, November 1972. Still owner as of 2019.


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1971 - The Judith Chafee Studio and Residence Renovation, 317 North Court Avenue, Tucson AZ. Built in the late 1800s. Chafee bought it in 1970. After her death, architect Charles "Corky" Poster bought the office as Poster Mirto McDonald. Poster had worked with Chafee and was a good friend.


1973 - The De Haviland House, Hillsdale NY. Commissioned 1972. Unbuilt.

1974 - The Wells House, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1972. Unbuilt.


1974 - The Christina Davidson Bloom Johnson House, aka Viewpoint, 2840 North Sunrock Lane, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1972. Designed for her mother, a retired interior designer for Carson Pirie Scott in Chicago. Featured in Architectural Record Houses of 1975. Built by Richard Kesterton; photos by Glenn Allison. After Chafee's mother's husband died, sold to the Ryers family. With 3 children they needed more room so Chafee designed a 1977 addition. Sold several times. Sold in 2004 to John Biklen and David Streeter who did a restoration. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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1974 - The Mary Pickett Knauth Meditation Barn, 670 Baldwin Road, Rushville PA. Status unknown.


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1976 - The Jane Solomon House, aka Ramada House, 2801 East Camino Norberto, Tucson AZ. Listed in 2006 on the National Register of Historic Places. Jane Solomon divorced and became Jane London. Sold in 2021 to Woody and Sharon Jackson.


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1977 - The Arthur and Joan Jacobson House, 5645 North Campbell Avenue, Tucson AZ. Featured in Architectural Record Houses of 1979. Built by James L. Hamilton; structural engineers, Holben and Martin; photos by Glenn Allison. Deeded to Joan Jacobson, later to her trust. Status unknown.


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1977 - The Wells House Remodel, Tucson AZ.


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1977 - The Meyers House, Tucson AZ.


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1977 - The John J. and Cecil Dahm Addition, Tucson AZ.


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1978 - The Jerry Cannon Remodel, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


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1978 - The Cromwell Addition, Tucson AZ. Possible first name, Wallace. Status unknown.


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1979 - The Bishop Kitchen Remodel, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


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1979 - The Downey Remodel I, Tucson AZ. Chafee did another remodel in 1987. Status unknown.


1979 - The Jerry Blackwell House, Gates Pass Road, Tucson AZ. Blackwell was forced to sell to the county for a park. The house was vandalized, then slated for destruction. Although faculty and students at the University of Arizona fought to save it, the house was destroyed in 1998, several weeks before Chafee’s death.


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1979 - The Best House, Patagonia AZ. Commissioned 1972. Unbuilt.


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1980 - The Stanton House Remodel, Tucson AZ. Most of Chafee's work has since been renovated over. Status unknown.


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1980 - The Nancy Kelsik and Andrew Vishner Remodel, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


1980 - The Chafee Interior Townhome Remodel, Orchard River and Glenn Streets, Tucson AZ. Chafee did an interior remodel in 1996.


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1980 - The Edgar and Rose Stanton Remodel, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


1980 - The Edward and Betty Kollar House, 6955 North Mercer Spring Place, Tucson AZ. Sold to Jorge Albala.


1980 - The Johnson Interior at Pennswood Village, 1382 Newton-Langhorne Road, Newtown PA.


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1981 - The Daniels Addition, Tucson AZ. Unbuilt.

1982 - The Henry Strachan-Louisa Piccone House, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1981. Unbuilt.


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1982 - The John J. and Cecil Dahm Vacation House Addition, Pinetop AZ. Status unknown.


1982 - The Lee and Marisha Hydeman House, 85 Hog Canyon Road, Patagonia AZ. After Marisha died, Lee married Judith, who did a restoration. Sold for the first time in 2016 to Diana Nijland and John F. Schaefer.


1982 - The David Russell and Susan Randolph Adobe House, 2802 South Cottonwood Lane, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1981. Unbuilt addition in 1994. Still owned by them in 2020.


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1982 - The Marks Addition, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


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1983 - The Fred and Martha Chaffee Addition, 3614 East Marble Peak Place, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


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1984 - aka Centrum House, aka Hamilton Limited Edition, 6606 Circulo Otono, Tucson AZ. Sold in 2003 to Seymour and Marcia Sabesin.


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1984 - The Schlosser Remodel, Tucson AZ. In 1988, Chafee designed a second remodel. Status unknown.


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1984 - The Bowman House, Sonoita AZ. Commissioned 1982. Status unknown.


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1984 - The Yanker Guest House, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1982. Status unknown.


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1984 - The Garfield Addition and Remodel, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1983. Unbuilt.


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1984 - The Jones House, Avra Valley AZ. Commissioned 1983. Unbuilt.


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Around 1985 - The Merriman House, Pima County AZ. Sold in 2002 to Annemie and Donald Baker.


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1985 - The Marilyn Hadley Concept House, aka Mature Outlook, Tucson AZ. Unbuilt.


1985 - The Finkel House, aka Allergy Free House, aka House of Glass and Steel, 6655 East Placita Alhaja, Tucson AZ. Chafee designed a guest house around 1991. Sold around 2006 to William and Karen Schumacher.


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1987 - The Nendza House, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1986. Unbuilt.

1988 - The Genzer House, Tucson AZ. Unbuilt.


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1988 - The George Rieveschl House, 7046 North Javelina Drive, Tucson AZ. 7200sf. Sold in 2007 to Sandra Helton and Norman Edelson.


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1988 - The Richard T. Oehrle and Susan Steele Addition, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


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1989 - The Hutchinson Stables, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1983. Status unknown.


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1990 - The Brown Remodel, Tucson AZ. Commissioned 1989. Status unknown.


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1993 - The Mark P. and Pat Trueblood House, 22 Milky Way, Sonoita AZ. Commissioned 1990. Located next to Trueblood's Winer Sonoita astronomical observatory, the site of a number of significant small telescopes and famous robotic telescopes.


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1993 - The Tracy Addition, Tucson AZ. Status unknown.


1994 - The Adelyn and Fred Hansen Addition, 119 Cedar Lane, Crystal Falls MI. Commissioned 1991. View of the Paint River. Adelyn Hansen worked under Chafee's mom at the upscale Chicago department store, Carson Pierie Scott, and became director of the department when Christina retired. Adelyn had admired Chafee's work in Connecticut and had always wanted her to design a house for her. 30 years later, she called Chafee to build a new house for her and her ill brother, Fred. Still owned by Adelyn Hansen as of 2019.


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1996 - The Meyers/Bendt Remodel, Tucson AZ. Unbuilt.


Sources include: Architectural Record; Kathryn McGuire; Powerhouse: The Life and Work of Judith Chafee by Christopher Domin and Kathryn McGuire; Beverly Willis Archives.