Summit County: A pioneer in architecture and the American West |

Summit County: A pioneer in architecture and the American West

Mariana Wenzel
Summit Daily News
Special to the Daily

Local designer Suzanne Allen-Guerra will talk about the work of architect and pioneer Mary Jane Colter at the second event in the artist speaker series from the Summit County Arts Exhibit Committee, taking place at 4 p.m. Sunday at Summit County Commons, 37 County Rd. #1005 in Frisco.

The designer will discuss Colter’s influence on her work through a virtual tour of both Colter’s and her own work. Colter was an architect for the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey Company at a time when women were not common in the field.

Allen-Guerra’s first contact with architecture and design came at 13 years old, when she worked in the construction industry with her father.

“(I) loved the fact that Mary Jane Colter went to architecture school, taught drafting to boys and designed major buildings for the Santa Fe Railroad in a time when women just didn’t do that kind of thing. She was truly an inspiration,” she said.

Colter’s example motivated Allen-Guerra to make her own small revolution while she was a student at the University of Colorado in Denver. At the time, there was only one book related to women and architecture available in the college library, so Allen-Guerra formed a women-in-architecture club dedicated to purchasing titles for the university. By the time she left, the group had added more than 200 books to the library’s catalog.

“I came across Mary’s work and felt that she could be an incredible inspiration to a lot of young aspiring female architects and artists,” she said.

Originally from Northern California, Allen-Guerra moved to Summit County in 1993 and opened an architecture firm in Breckenridge with partner Courtney Saldivar. “We are currently designing an energy-efficient, mountain-contemporary 2,500-square-foot home for some locals, and it has been a blast,” Allen-Guerra said. “People often think that we don’t take on small projects, but we love designing cabins and additions, especially for locals who have been yearning to design their dream home for years.”

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