Robert S. Peabody (1845-1917) was raised in nearby New Bedford and graduated from Harvard in 1866. He worked in the offices of Boston architects Gridley J. F. Byrant and Henry Van Brunt before heading to Paris for studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Upon his return to Boston in 1870, Peabody began his forty-year partnership with John Goddard Stearns, Jr. (1843-1917), a fellow Harvard alumnus and a former colleague in Van Brunt’s office.
The firm's work encompassed nearly every building type from railroad stations to office buildings, and included an evolving language of styles. Their significant footprint in the Boston area included Shingle Style houses on the north shore, Second Empire Baroque and Richardsonian Romanesque residences in the Back Bay, and Classical Revival office buildings including the iconic tower atop Boston's original Custom House. Peabody also did a number of projects at Harvard, where President Eliot was his brother-in-law. Many of the firm's structures still stand, with the Custom House Tower and Dorchester Heights Monument among the most familiar.
Peabody served as President of the AIA in 1900.