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Merle Easton Architectural Collection

Identifier: Ms-2021-028

Scope and Content

This collection contains a mixture of professional papers, as well as office and project records. Merle Easton's professional papers include several portfolios showcasing her work, and literature and programming from organizations she was involved with over the years. Project records include portfolios and published materials relating to her work on the Mantua-Powelton Mini-School in West Philadelphia and development of the "street school" concept on which the project was modeled, extensive documentation of the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin, California, including correspondence, meeting agendas and notes, reports, and architectural schematics, and other documentation of projects from various firms. Office records include firm or agency information, guidelines, annual reports, some photographs of ground-breaking ceremonies, and some personnel files related to Easton’s own hiring process and performance evaluations.


  • 1966 - 2013


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form:

Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Merle Lynn Easton was born on December 7th, 1940, and graduated from Sitka High School in Sitka, Alaska, in 1958.

Before Easton earned her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1966, she attended the College of Art and Architecture at the University of Oregon, Eugene from 1958 to 1962, and Portland State College from 1961 to 1962. For her thesis project at the University of Washington, she developed a design for a Community Center based on the needs of the, at the time, impoverished Central Seattle area community. She participated in study abroad programs in Mexico and Europe where she studied historic and modern architecture and patterns of urban development. As part of her continuing education, she also took courses in real estate law and construction at Temple University in Philadelphia.

As an independent architect, Easton developed the “street school” concept that was used for the Mantua-Powelton Mini-School in West Philadelphia. This was an urban renewal project focused on refurbishing an abandoned factory building to house a small, integrated, and community-controlled school. The project was written about in two issues of Progressive Architecture, Design and Planning: The New Schools by James Morisseau, and in Women in American Architecture: A Historic and Contemporary Perspective, edited by Susana Torre. After her work on the mini-school she went on to work as a draftsperson, job captain, and staff architect at several firms and on a variety of projects, including hospitals, churches, and schools. As job captain at Victor H. Wilburn & Associates, she produced a report, included in this collection, analyzing the programs of the Wilmington Housing Authority and proposing measures and policy adjustments to make their programs more effective.

From 1973 to 1979 she worked as the Director of Technical Services at the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She was responsible for setting up a complete program for the Technical Services Division of the Agency to oversee review of all drawings and specifications, review of utility analyses, review of construction cost estimates, inspection of construction, and approval of construction drawings. Additionally, she was responsible for making hiring decisions and managing a staff of sixteen employees. During her tenure the PHFA completed more than fifty projects aimed at families and the elderly, some rehabilitations, as well as high-rise, mid-rise, garden, and townhouse constructions, some with commercial facilities included.

After moving to California in the spring of 1979, Easton worked as a project manager and architect for several firms before being hired on as a managing architect at the Alameda County Public Works Agency in Hayward, California. There she was responsible for managing the complete process of design, contract administration, and construction of County buildings and renovation projects. Projects Easton worked on included the East County Animal Shelter, the Turner Court Operations building, the Highland General Hospital clinic building and medical records projects, renovations to parts of the Alameda County Administration Building, and the East County Hall of Justice.

She was an active member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), serving over several years as secretary, treasurer, vice president, and president of the Central Pennsylvania chapter, and on various organizational committees. From 1973 to 1979 she served on the Harrisburg Community Development Forum, and as committee chair from 1977 to 1978. She was a steering committee member of the Organization of Women Architects (OWA), based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she volunteered with the Victorian Alliance of San Francisco, organizing historic house tours and serving as president from 2005 to 2006.


2.2 Cubic Feet (4 document boxes, 1 oversized flat file box)


The Merle Easton Architectural Collection contains a mixture of papers and records reflecting Easton's engagement with the architectural profession and her work on urban planning and design projects for various firms and agencies.


This collection is arranged into the following series:

  • I. Biographical Information
  • II. Professional Papers
  • III. Office Records
  • IV. Project Records

The project records series contain two sub-series for documentation of Easton's work on the Mantua-Powelton Mini-School and for the Alameda County Public Works Agency. Within each series files are arranged chronologically.

Source of Acquisition

The Merle Easton Architectural Collection was donated to Special Collections and University Archives in 2019.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Merle Easton Architectural Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Merle Easton Architectural Collection was completed in September 2021.

Merle Easton Architectural Collection, 1966-2013
Processed by Jade Snelling, with the help of two students
2021 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US