Willard Thomas Sears was born on November 5, 1837, in New Bedford, the son of Willard Sears and his wife, Ruth Barker Cushman (daughter of Obed Cushman).
He married on January 1, 1862, in Boston, to May Motte (b. 25Aug1841 in Boston; d. 18Oct1930), daughter of Rev. Mellish Irving Motte and his wife, Marianne Alger (daughter of Cyrus Alger).
Willard Sears died May 21, 1920.
Willard Sears studied architecture with Solomon K. Eaton in New Bedford and subsequently served as an apprentice in the offices of Gridley J. F. Bryant in 1858-1859. In 1860, he opened his own office. In 1867, he formed a partnership with Charles Amos Cummings, who also had been a member of Bryant’s office. They remained partners until 1890, when Cummings retired.
Among Cummings and Sears works are Brechin Hall (1861) and Stone Chapel (1867) at Phillips Andover; the Sears Building (1868), probably the first office building in Boston to have been dependent upon the elevator; Hotel Boylston (1870; demolished) at Tremont and Boylston Streets; the New Old South Church (1874-75) in Copley Square; the Bedford Building (1875-76) at 99 Bedford, and the Cyclorama Building (1884), now the Boston Center for the Arts, at 538 Tremont Street.
After Cummings’s retirement, Sears continued as a sole practitioner. In 1892 he designed the Eldridge Building at 376 Boylston between Arlington and Berkeley, and in 1902 he was Isabella Stewart Gardner’s architect for Fenway Court, the Venetian Renaissance-style palace that now is the Gardner Museum.
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