Lutah Maria Riggs was born on October 31, 1896 in Toledo, Ohio. She came to Santa Barbara in 1914 and attended Santa Barbara City Junior College until 1917 when she went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated from Berkeley in 1919 with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. Just out of school, Riggs found employment as a draftswomen and designer for Ralph D. Taylor in Susanville.
One year later in 1921, Riggs began to work for architect George Washington Smith. She remained in his office until his unexpected death in 1930. Before his death, Smith apparently treated Riggs as a surrogate daughter, taking her on architectural study trips to Mexico and Europe. Riggs became an important member of the office--her renderings can be found in almost every project file. She contributed significantly to the Lobero Theatre, El Paso historical complex, and Casa del Herrero, among other projects.
After Smith’s death Riggs established a short-lived partnership with William Horning. Horning and Riggs and dissolved in 1931. In 1931 Riggs became the principal of her own firm. In 1946 she formed a partnership with Arvin Shaw (who had worked for the New York firm, Harrison & Abramovitz), which lasted until 1950. Riggs continued her practice until 1981, when she closed her office due to declining health.
The numerous residential and public buildings designed by Riggs include houses for Wright Luddington, Alice Erving, and for E. Palmer Black; the Vedanta Temple and the library and herbarium of the botanical Garden in Santa Barbara. While most of her work was in the Santa Barbara area, she received several commissions in Los Angeles and in smaller cities south of Los Angeles. In 1966 she was named women of year by the Los Angeles Times; she served on the state Board of Architectural Examiners and the Santa Barbara city and county Landmarks Advisory Committees. She was a charter member of the Montecito Foundation for the History Committee and active in the preservation of Santa Barbara’s historic architecture. Lutah Maria Riggs died in 1984 in Montecito, California at the age of 87.
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