About Eleanor Raymond
Eleanor Raymond (March 24, 1887 – July 4, 1989) was an American architect who built and designed the first occupied, solar-powered house in the United States.
Raymond was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1887 and graduated from Wellesley College in 1909. She graduated from the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture for Women in 1919, where she developed her interest in the relationship between architecture and landscape architecture.
She opened her own office in 1928 after working with well-known architect Henry Atherton Frost for several years. Raymond 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 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, although the two properties featured here were not. One client called her “an architect who combines a respect for tradition with a disrespect for its limitations.”
The Dover Sun House
In 1948, she undertook one of her most ambitious works, the Dover Sun House, an innovative house with solar collectors, with Dr. Mária Telkes from the MIT Solar Laboratory. 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.
Raymond died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1989 at the age of 102. 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.
Eleanor Raymond, 1887-1989
Eleanor Raymond was born in Cambridge, MA, and following her graduation from Wellesley College, enrolled in the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (whose faculty was largely drawn from the faculty of Harvard's School of Architecture). Upon her graduation in 1919, Raymond opened an office in partnership with Henry Atherton Frost: the beginning of a professional career that was to span some sixty years of practice. Raymond's prime interest was in residential housing: she designed one of the first International Style houses in the United States in 1931, was deeply interested in innovative materials and building systems (she designed a Plywood House in 1940 and in 1948, the "Sun House," one of the first successful solar-heated buildings in the Northeast). Eleanor Raymond was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1961.
The Eleanor Raymond Collection includes documentation of some 300 architectural projects, ranging from drawings to related correspondence, as well as project photographs, personal papers, snapshots, and memorabilia. Also included are diaries kept by architectural journalist and writer, Ethel Power, Raymond's long-time companion and professional colleague.