Leila Ross Wilburn and the MAK Historic District Walking Tour
This tour is now only available for private groups. We have a virtual option currently available for purchase. Learn more here
Leila Ross Wilburn in Decatur.
Leila Ross Wilburn, b. 1885, attended Agnes Scott Institute, and lived in the MAK (McDonough Street, Adams Street, and Kings Highway) neighborhood of Decatur her entire adult life. She became the second registered female architect in Georgia and went on to create hundreds of house plans, institutional buildings and residences. Leila Ross Wilburn’s designs are featured all over Atlanta and Decatur, but the epicenter is the MAK neighborhood. In this tour, we will focus on the MAK district, which features several of her early home designs. We will discuss her designs in detail and what makes them unique. We will also discuss Wilburn as a female architect, what that meant and how it influenced her design choices.
In 1911, a little-known Decatur architect was hired by developers Mason and Weekes to design and build speculative houses in what locals now know as the MAK neighborhood (McDonough, Adams, and Kings Highway). This architect was Leila Ross Wilburn. With only a few years of drafting experience, she went out on her own and formed her own architectural practice. Wilburn designed hundreds of house plans, which she published in plan books. In practice for nearly 50 years, her designs and work can be found in houses, apartment buildings, and institutional structures. In the early 20th century, Wilburn designed for the burgeoning Southern middle class. Young women with families were becoming “domestic executives” by running the household and joining social clubs. Wilburn’s designs featured specifics that catered toward women and addressed problems with entertaining and chores and the flow of work. Many of her plans had features said to reduce housework, such as removing awkward corners, and providing built-ins for storage which also eliminated the hard-to-clean spaces from underneath cabinets. The jury’s still out on whether these features were actual time savers, but she nevertheless specified her knowledge as a woman to sell these features.
Total walking distance: less than 1 mi
Tour Duration: 1.5 hours
Tour Meeting Location: Outdoor benches, halfway down block on Adams Street at Beacon Hill Middle School (Renfroe Middle School)
GPS Address and Parking: 130 Adams Street, Decatur GA 30030
Contact Marissa for questions or tour changes: Howard@dekalbhistory.org or 404 373 1088 ext 1003