Lutah Maria Riggs (1896-1984)


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.


Lutah Maria Riggs, architect


Lutah Maria Riggs papers, Architecture and Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara.


circa 1930 - circa 1960


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Collection Items

Lutah Maria Riggs: Riggs house (Montecito, Calif.)
Riggs designed this house on Middle Road in Montecito for herself in the mid-twenties; she lived there until her death in 1984. The house, named Clavelitos or "little carnation," contained two bedrooms, ample outdoor space, and large fireplaces. The…

Lutah Maria Riggs: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden library (Santa Barbara,Calif.)
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden was started in 1926 as a partnership between the Carnegie Institution and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, with land in Mission Canyon donated by Anna Dorinda Bliss. The Garden grew from the initial 13…

Lutah Maria Riggs: Suski building alterations (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
The large, multi-story commercial and retail building on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara had exterior alterations by Riggs. The T.C. Suski Building was a Joseph Magnin department store in the 1960s and is currently retail and offices.

Lutah Maria Riggs: Baer house (Lompoc, Calif.)
The alterations to the Herman Baer house in rural Lompoc show the modern style of architecture that Riggs was moving towards in the late 1940s. A marked departure from her Spanish Colonial Revival work of the 20s, this house shows her growth as an…

Lutah Maria Riggs: Nelson medical offices (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
This medical office building was one of three commissions by dermatologist Lawrence Nelson. It is a typical small medical office building, with parking in the rear of the property, and access from the street. The present occupants of the building are…

Lutah Maria Riggs: Colville house (Isla Vista, Calif.)
In 1954, the University of California opened a new campus on a former Marine Air Base, about ten miles west of Santa Barbara. This sparsely populated area, called Isla Vista, did not have the housing or infrastructure to support the influx of…

Lutah Maria Riggs portraits
These two photographs, taken approximately 30 years apart, show Lutah as a student at Berkeley and as a well-established architect at her drafting table.

Lutah Maria Riggs: Jefferson card room (Montecito, Calif.)
Mr and Mrs Percival Jefferson owned the 1916 Reginald Johnson-designed house, Miraflores. After her death in 1950, Mr.s Jefferson's friend and secretary, Helen Marso, donated the house and grounds to begin the Music Academy of the West.

Lutah Maria Riggs: Berkey house (Carpenteria, Calif.)
The beach house for Peter Berkey III, a former Air Force pilot, sits oceanside along Padaro Lane with an unobstructed view of the Pacific. The siting of the house on a small rise allows for unobstructed views of the mountains to the north as well.

Lutah Maria Riggs: Black house (Montecito, Calif.)
This house, on San Ysidro Lane in Montecito, for G. Palmer and Louise Black was the second one designed by Riggs for the couple. An earlier house was on Greene Lane in Santa Barbara.
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