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Marion Bell MacRae is a well-known architectural and design historian. Born in Apple Hill, Ont. in 1921, she entered the Ontario College of Art in 1947. She completed her post-graduate studies at the University of Illinois in the years 1951-54. From 1949 to 1969 she was an instructor at O.C.A. in Museum Research and subsequently lectured in Design History from 1969 to 1986, after which she retired. She also taught History of Canadian Architecture part-time at the University of Toronto from 1973 to 1978. She also acted as a Special Research Consultant to the Dundurn Castle restoration project which was completed in 1967.
Having first collaborated at Morrisburg, Ont. on the Upper Canada Village project, MacRae worked with Anthony Adamson on a survey of the historical houses of Ontario. The resulting work, written by MacRae and illustrated with a preface and a last word by Adamson, explored the history of the province through its architecture. The Ancestral Roof (1963) was well received and has had many printings. This team would collaborate on two more works on the history of Ontario architecture. In 1975 MacRae and Adamson published Hallowed Walls (Governor General’s award for non-fiction), an exploration of ecclesiastical architecture of Ontario. They also put together Cornerstones of Order (1983) which looked at pre-1900 public buildings (court houses and town halls) in Ontario. From 1963 to 1967 MacRae was enlisted by Adamson to work as a Special Research Consultant on a project to restore Dundurn Castle at Hamilton, Ont. During this time she became interested in the life of the man who built the castle, Sir Allan MacNab. MacNab of Dundurn, a biography, was published in 1971, which not only explored the life of MacNab but also his life’s work, Dundurn Castle.