Eleanor Raymond

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Eleanor Raymond
Born (1887-03-04)March 4, 1887
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Died April 2, 1989(1989-04-02) (aged 102)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Alma mater Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Occupation architect

Eleanor Raymond (1887 – 1989) was an American architect with a professional career of some sixty years of practice, mainly in residential housing. She designed one of the first International Style houses in the United States, in 1931. She also explored the use of innovative materials and building systems, designing a plywood house in 1940 as well as one of the first successful solar-heated buildings in the Northeast, the “Sun House”, in 1948.

Early life and education[edit]

Raymond was born in 1888 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 24, 1887, and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College in 1909. After graduation, she enrolled in the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, a school that was then closely affiliated with Harvard’s School of Architecture. She was among five women architectural design students of Henry Atherton Frost and Bremer Whidden Pond in 1915, the school's first year of operation.[1] It was there that she developed her lifelong interest in the relationship between architecture and landscape architecture. She graduated from the school in 1919.

Personal life[edit]

Raymond took part in a number of social movements of her day, including the women's suffrage movement and the settlement house movement.[2] It was through a suffragist organization that she met her life partner, Ethel B. Power, who went on to attend and graduate from the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture as well.[2] Raymond and Power—who became a longtime editor for House Beautiful magazine—remained together for more than half a century, until Power's death in 1969.

Raymond renovated a townhouse at 112 Charles St. in Boston as a group home for herself, Power, and other women. It was planned for the needs of businesswomen who required some work space at home and who needed the house to be as "self-running" as possible, which led to a reduction in the footprints of both dining room and kitchen.[3]

Architectural work[edit]

On graduating, Raymond joined Frost's practice as his sole partner (she had previously been working for him as a draftsperson while a student).[2] Raymond opened her own office in 1928 after working with Frost for several years. She was drawn to the simple vernacular structures expressive of rural American life, avoiding the grand facades and the exclusively modern styles that were popular with her contemporaries. In 1931, after five years of work, Raymond published Early Domestic Architecture of Pennsylvania, in which she explored what she called the “unstudied directness in fitting form to function” of very early American architecture. The book was one of the first systematic inventories of vernacular American architecture and defined Raymond’s career.

Raymond became increasingly known for primarily residential designs that took cues from early American architecture, as well as for her restoration and remodeling work, which approached modern-day adaptive reuse. Raymond always worked within the “three fields” of a house—the exterior, interior, and landscape—and maintained that the architect must always know how the client will use the house. Much of her work was commissioned by women from her social group in Boston and Cambridge. One client called her “an architect who combines a respect for tradition with a disrespect for its limitations.” The author of a monograph on her life praised her work for its "subtle simplicity without succumbing to architectural exhibitionism".[4]

In her fusion of European and American influences, some scholars see Raymond as attempting to create a kind of regional modernism. The Rachel Raymond House (built for her sister in 1931), for example, fuses the stark International-Style rectilinear forms of the exterior with an interior rich in traditional built-in cupboards, decorative wood trim, and antique hardware. The Rachel Raymond House is thus a manifestation of a Northeastern regional modernism that predates by six years a Lincoln, Massachusetts, house by Walter Gropius that is often singled out as the first manifestation of an American regional modernism.[2]

In 1948, Raymond undertook one of her most ambitious works, the Dover Sun House,[5] an innovative house with solar collectors, with Dr. Mária Telkes from the MIT Solar Laboratory.[1] Eleanor Raymond amassed more than 50 years of professional experience in the practice of architecture and in 1961 was made a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.[6]

Raymond was a member of the American Institute of Architects, and in 1961 was elected an AIA fellow.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

Raymond died in Boston, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1989, at the age of 102.[8]

A collection of Raymond's blueprints, papers, diaries, letters, and scrapbooks documenting some 200 of her buildings is held by the Harvard Graduate School of Design.[2] A portfolio of materials about her architectural work is held by the museum Historic New England and includes a number of articles by Power about Raymond.[9]

Significant works[edit]

  • 112 Charles St. (ca. 1923)[10]
  • Barnes House Renovation (1929)
  • Rachel Raymond House (1931)[2]
  • Peabody Farm Buildings (1934)
  • Sugarman House (1935)
  • Elliott House (1935-1936)
  • Frost House (1935)
  • Miller House (1936)
  • Pillsbury House (1937)
  • Farnsworth House (1939)[11]
  • Plywood House (1940)
  • Peabody Plywood House (1940-1941)
  • Parker Plywood House (1941, 1945-1946)
  • Hammond Compound (1941-1942)
  • Peabody Sun-Heated House (1948)
  • Pope House (1949-1950)
  • Meyer House (1958)
  • Nichols Factory Addition (1959-1960)
  • Damon House (1961)
  • Baxter-Ward Antique Shop (1970)
  • Peabody Westville Sporthaus (1972)
  • Smith House (1973)[12]


  • Eleanor Raymond. Early Domestic Architecture of Pennsylvania. 1931

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Golemba, Beverly E. (1992). Lesser-known Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Boulder u.a.: Rienner. p. 251. ISBN 978-1-55587-301-1. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gruskin, Nancy. "Designing Women: Writing About Eleanor Raymond". UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004 (website).
  3. ^ Friedman, Alice T. Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History. Yale University Press, 2006.
  4. ^ Cole, Doris. Eleanor Raymond, Architect. Philadelphia: Art Alliance Press, 1981.
  5. ^ Denzer, Anthony (2013). The Solar House: Pioneering Sustainable Design. Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0-8478-4005-2. 
  6. ^ "Eleanor Raymond (1888-1989), architect". National Park Service. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Hays, Johanna. Louise Blanchard Bethune: America's First Female Professional Architect. McFarland, 2014, pp. 20-21.
  8. ^ Many literary and online sources give her dates of life as 1888 to 1989, but a look at the Social Security Death Index shows that she was born in 1887 and died in 1989, making her 102 at the time of her death.
  9. ^ "Eleanor Raymond photographic collection". Historic New England website.
  10. ^ House Beautiful, Oct. 1923, pp. 349-350; Nov. 1924, pp. 462-468, 514-516; Nov. 1926, pp. 554, 557-559, 573-576 612.
  11. ^ Architectural Forum, November 1943, 82-83.
  12. ^ House Beautiful, Sept. 1928, pp. 238, 241-245, 310-312; Oct. 1928, pp. 383-387.