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Rachel Elizabeth DeWolfe Black pursued a successful career as an architect, interior designer, and educator. She began practicing architecture in Detroit in 1932, when Richard Raseman, her first husband, was appointed director of the Academy of Arts at the Cranbrook Institutions in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. During the ten years she spent there, Cranbrook became an American Bauhaus. It was a progressive school for art, architecture, design, sculpture, weaving, ceramics, and metalsmithing, sciences and vocational programs. In 1942, Rachel became architect-in-residence with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin in Arizona before moving to Los Angeles to start an interior design business called California Contempora. In 1950, she moved to New Hope and married Cornell classmate, Russell Van Nest Black, who was an architect and Philadelphia city planner. Rachel joined her husband in his business of selling Christmas trees that they grew on their farm. The Black Farm was notably one of the first places in the country for people to cut their own live tree. When Russell died in 1969, Rachel carried on the business until 1982.
Education and Training
Cornell University, School of Architecture (first woman graduate in architecture), Ithaca, New York, 1921
Teachers and Influences
Richard Raseman, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Russell Black. At Cranbrook, she was friendly with noted architects Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero, a fellow student. She was also affiliated with Charles Eames, Hans and Florence Knoll, Harry Bertoia, and Carl Milles, the Swedish sculptor, to whom Rachel apprenticed, and Robert Rosenwald, another Cranbrook student and New Hope resident. Her second husband, Russell Van Nest Black, was an architect and city planner who worked with Louis Kahn to change the face of Philadelphia.
Connection to Bucks County
Rachel Black moved to New Hope around 1950, after her divorce from architect Richard Raseman. She married another Cornell classmate, Russell Black. They lived in an old stone house on Russell's property outside New Hope, on Stoney Hill Road. Rachel designed and built a new California-style home in 1953. It was destroyed by fire in 1983.
Colleagues and Affiliations
The Blacks' friends included Dee and Robert Rosenwald, illustrator Bet Augenblick, sculptor Alice Bentley, Richard Schmueckle, journalist Charles Shaw and photographer Jack Rosen.
Rachel Black was a founding member of the New Hope Historical Society. She was an active member of the community and worked for many local causes. She was also an active member and board member of Planned Parenthood.
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Academy of the Fine Arts, Cranbrook, Michigan, 1932-1942
Architect-in-Residence, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, school, and design laboratory, Taliesin, Arizona
Certificate of Appreciation, New Hope Historical Society, 1980
Affiliations and Memberships
American Institute of Architects
Founding Member, New Hope Historical Society
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