McKim, Mead, & White was best known as a New York City firm serving gilded-age clients across the northeast, but Charles McKim had deep Boston roots. He studied at Harvard before heading to L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, worked in H.H. Richardson’s office where he served as a draftsman on the Trinity Church project, and married Julia Appleton, gaining access to the highest echelons of Boston society.
Adopting the classical Greek and Roman stylistic vocabulary as filtered through the École des Beaux-Arts and advancing the related City Beautiful movement, McKim Mead & White sought to clean up the visual confusion of American cities and imbue them with a sense of order and formality. Their designs for the Boston Public Library and Symphony Hall are major examples of this approach, establishing classically-inspired beacons for knowledge, culture, and civic gathering in the Back Bay. The firm went on to complete an impressive succession of buildings across Boston, from Harvard to MIT to Longwood and downtown. McKim's 1889 design for Harvard's Johnston Gate is credited with establishing the Georgian Revival as the campus’ dominant style until WWII.
The firm continued to practice long after the death of its founders, executing several significant projects around Boston including the Harvard Business School campus plan.