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Historical Society honors Orlando trailblazer Isabel Roberts with gravestone

Work of Ryan & Roberts

Isabel Roberts (1871-1955) once worked at the right hand of Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed a house that bears her name in Illinois. In Orlando during the 1920s, she joined Ida Annah Ryan — the first woman in the nation to earn a master’s degree in architecture — to create landmarks including that Prairie Style band shell that long graced Lake Eola Park. Yet when Roberts died in 1955, without family nearby, she was buried in Orlando’s Greenwood Cemetery with no marker to remember her. Her gravesite has been unmarked for more than 60 years.

Now, the Historical Society of Central Florida, working with Greenwood sexton Don Price, will honor Roberts on March 16 with a ceremony to place a marker at her grave.

“We published an article about Ryan and Roberts in 2011 in the Historical Society’s magazine, Reflections from Central Florida, and it’s one of the most intriguing stories from Orlando’s past,” said the society’s executive director, Michael Perkins. “The firm of Ryan and Roberts managed a successful architecture practice during times when women architects were very few and often weren’t accepted. When we learned that Isabel Roberts’ grave was unmarked, this seemed like a great way to celebrate Women’s History Month: by honoring her with a lasting tribute.”

The gravestone dedication will take place at 12:30 p.m. at Greenwood Cemetery Wednesday, March 16, and all are welcome, Perkins said.

The Historical Society of Central Florida, Inc., was organized in 1971 by the late Judge Donald A. Cheney and others to find a permanent home for a then-small county historical museum that traced its roots to the early 1940s—the precursor of today’s Orange County Regional History Center. In partnership with the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, the nonprofit Historical Society continues to operate the History Center, a Smithsonian affiliate that in 2015 celebrated its 15th anniversary in downtown Orlando.