Robert Swain Peabody was born on February 22, 1845, in New Bedford, the son of Rev. Ephraim Peabody and his wife, Mary Jane Derby.
Robert Peabody married first on June 8, 1871, in Boston, to Annie Putnam (d. 1911), daughter of John P. Putnam and his wife, Harriet Day (daughter of Thomas Day).
He married second on January 25, 1913, to Helen Lee, daughter of Charles Carroll Lee.
Robert Peabody died on September 23, 1917, in Marblehead.
Robert Swain Peabody moved to Boston with his family at a young age, after his father accepted a post with King’s Chapel. He graduated from Harvard in 1866, and then worked briefly in the offices of Gridley J. F. Bryant and of Ware and Van Brunt. After several years in Europe (including studying at the Atelier Daumet at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris), he returned to Boston in 1870 and formed a partnership with John Goddard Stearns, who also had served in the Ware and Van Brunt offices. Peabody was the firm’s designer.
Peabody and Stearns were in partnership from 1870 until their deaths, a few days apart, in 1917. They completed more than a thousand commissions in Boston and throughout the nation, becoming, in the words of Douglass Shand-Tucci (Built in Boston) “a firm that in many ways would be to Boston what McKim, Mead and White were to New York and Burnham and Root to Chicago.”
Their work in the Boston area included the Boston and Providence Railroad Station at Park Square (1872; demolished); the Brunswick Hotel (1873) and annex (1877) at the southeast corner of Boylston and Clarendon; the Boston Post Building (1874) at 17 Milk Street; the New York Mutual Life Insurance Building (1874-1875; demolished in 1945) on Post Office Square; the American Unitarian Association Building on Beacon at Bowdoin (1886; demolished); Assumption Church in Brookline (1878-1886); the Exchange Building (1887), one of first buildings to use steel framing; the Stock Exchange Building (1889-1891) at 53 State Street; Christ Church in Waltham (1897-1898); and the Custom House Tower (1913-1915) on State Street at India Street.
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