William Gibbons Preston

Personal Data

William Gibbons Preston was born on August 29,1842, in Boston, the son of architect and builder Jonathan Preston and his wife, Emily E. Webb

He married on December 6, 1866, in Boston, to Estelle M. Evans (b. 23Dec1847 in Malden), daughter of Brice S. Evans and his wife, Sarah (LNU).

William Preston died on April 26, 1910, in Brookline.


William Preston was educated at Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School and the Atelier Douillard at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

While in Paris, it appears that he prepared designs for both the Boston Society of Natural History Building (1862) and the complementary first MIT Building (1864; demolished in 1939) on Newbury between Berkeley and Clarendon, and returned to Boston to join with his father in supervising their construction.

Preston and his father remained in partnership until the mid-1870s, when his father retired. He continued as a sole practitioner until his death in 1910.

His practice, devoted to a wide variety of building types, centered in Boston but did work throughout the east, south, and midwest.  Among his Boston works were the Public Garden bridge (1866), the first section of the Hotel Vendôme (1872),  the coliseum for the World’s Peace Jubilee of 1873 (demolished), Mechanics Hall on Huntington Avenue (1881; demolished in 1959 for the Prudential Center), the Medieval-style First Cadet Corps Armory in Park Square, 145 Milk Street (1906), and a number of buildings at Boston University.

The Boston Public Library holds a large collection of Preston’s drawings, ranging in date from 1861 to 1907.  Bainbridge Bunting (in Houses of Boston’s Back Bay) comments “as we trace Preston’s career in the forty-eight volumes of his work … we see how soon he exchanged the predictable regularities of the French Academic manner for the vagaries of the Queen Anne style”

Back Bay Work

1870 397 Beacon
1870 1 Gloucester
1871 160 Commonwealth
1871 160 Commonwealth (Demolished)
1871 162 Commonwealth (Demolished)
1871 164 Commonwealth (Demolished)
1871 166 Commonwealth (Demolished)
1871 168 Commonwealth (Demolished)
1871 280 Dartmouth (Demolished)
1871 282 Dartmouth (Demolished)
1871 284 Dartmouth (Demolished)
1872 123 Commonwealth
1872 125 Commonwealth
1883 278 Dartmouth (149 Newbury)
1900 (ca.) 325 Commonwealth (Remodeling)