James DuBois McNeely 1933 – 2017
James D. McNeely, a prominent Boston architect, noted for his historic renovation of Beacon Hill townhouses, died peacefully on July 27, 2017 in his South Freeport home, surrounded by his wife and three of his children. McNeely was born in Washington, D.C. to Oscar DuBois McNeely and Julia DuPre Anderson on February 3, 1933. McNeely was a 53 year resident of Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts and a 30 year resident of South Freeport, Maine. He is survived by his wife, Barbara W. Moore, his sons, Ragan McNeely of Cambridge, MA, Rand Chatterjee of Vancouver, B.C., his daughters, Sarah McNeely Byrne of Williamsburg, VA and Madeline McNeely of Newton, MA. He is also survived by his first wife, Susan McWhinney-Morse, mother of his children, his sister Julia Armstrong of Vancouver, B.C., nieces, nephew and many grandchildren and stepchildren.
McNeely received his B.A. and Masters in Architecture from Yale University in 1954 and 1960. In between, he served in the US Army, stationed in Japan. McNeely began his career as a protege of the late Paul Rudolph, head of the Yale School of Architecture, who sent him to Boston to hire and manage the design team for the construction of the Lindemann Mental Health Center. McNeely bought and renovated a townhouse across from the site, on Temple Street, where his four children were raised. McNeely later worked for Benjamin Thompson in Cambridge, MA.
In 1974 McNeely opened what was to become a thriving practice on Beacon Hill, where he focused on the historic restoration of 19th century townhouses. He renovated over 150 homes, in addition to institutions and businesses on Beacon Hill and Back Bay. He designed and drove the creation of the pedestrian walkway on Temple Street. He drew everything by hand, never using a computer for design work. McNeely did not retire, his most recent renovation of a neighbor’s home in South Freeport still underway.
McNeely was involved in the communities in which he lived. He served on the Board of the Beacon Hill Nursery School, the Beacon Hill Civic Association and the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission. He wrote for the Beacon Hill News, and represented Historic New England throughout his career. Historic New England chose to archive his entire practice after he closed his Beacon Hill office. In recent years, he served on the board of the North Bennett Street School. He was the treasurer at South Freeport Congregational Church, where he was also a beloved choir member. In the last two decades of his life, McNeely sang and traveled with the Yale Alumni Chorus to Russia, South Africa and Cuba.
In 1987 McNeely bought his Maine property from his then father-in-law, Paul Powers, upon which he built a tower, the only home he designed for himself. The tower was featured in The Boston Globe Magazine and on Extreme Homes. The tower was influenced by the remains of Casco Castle (C. 1902, located behind the property), the shingle style of John Calvin Stevens, and the tower houses atop the hill towns of Italy, which he loved. Connecting the tower to the existing 1940s cabin below, McNeely and his wife designed and tend a spectacular terraced garden, which winds down to the water. The house and grounds are a gathering spot for extended family and friends.
McNeely was a great cook and baker, a graceful ballroom dancer, and he loved to play bridge. His family will miss his tradition of home baked bread at Christmas, and summer rhubarb pies.
Memorial services will be held at noon, September 9th at King’s Chapel, Boston. McNeely’s ashes will be interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery.