John M. Gray FAIA established his architectural practice the John M. Gray Co. in Boston in 1912. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1887 and received his degrees from the Carnegie Institute in 1908 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1910. In 1911 he won the competition to design the Salem Court House and Police Station. Following the completion of that project he continued his education for an additional year at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Among those early projects for the firm were East Boston High School (1925), Thomas Kenney School (1926), and the William Ellery Channing School (1926). As the practice continued to grow, the firm specialized in educational, municipal, ecclesiastical, and multi-family housing projects, completing in the 1930's Boston's "L" Street Bath House (1932) and Traffic Tunnel Administration Building (1932). The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
A specialization in ecclesiastic design developed early for the firm. This work began with the design of Our Lady of The Bay Church in Hull (1923), and continued with St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Salem (1932). Following his graduation from MIT in 1938, John M. Gray Jr. joined the firm and he brought contemporary concepts of modern architecture to the practice.
The office was organized as a small studio. Collaboration with student architects from local architectural schools was an important aspect of this concept and John Gray's vision for the firm. Over the years this studio concept has continued, allowing particular focus for each project and resulting in designs that are representative of the unique context and design program for each project.
In 1940 John Gray's second oldest son, Francis J. Gray joined the firm. His career plans, however, were interrupted by World War II, and he served in the United States Navy for four years. Returning to attend Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he received his Masters Degree in City Planning 1948, he again began working in the practice. Into the next decade the commissions increased to include projects for the telecommunications industry, churches, elementary schools and high schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, academic commissions for the State of Massachusetts College System, and projects for the Boston Housing Authority. Between 1948 and 1959 the firm completed buildings such as the Housing of the Elderly in Brighton (1948), the City of Boston Fire Department Headquarters (1949), Boston Welfare and Recreation Building (1950), the Oliver Street Fire Station (1952) for the City of Boston, Mahoney Hall at Lowell State College (1953), and the Sullivan Academic Center at Worcester State College (1954) and the Auditorium and Gymnasium addition to Dwight Hall at Framingham State College (1955).
Through the next decade the firm continued work for clients such as the New England Telephone Company, the City of Boston, and the Archdiocese of Boston. Over fifty projects were completed for the expanding New England Telephone Company, including twenty new buildings. Other work included the Alice Shaw Junior High School High School in Swampscott (1958), a new Catholic High School in concord (1960), and Bates Elementary School in Salem (1971).
In 1972 Jack Gray died at the age of 52, cutting short a career that included the design of over 30 buildings. In 1974, Francis's son Dennis J. Gray jointed the firm, and for the next four years three generations of Gray architects worked together in the Boston Office. John M. Gray, the founder of the firm, died in 1978 at the age of 91, completing a career in architecture that spanned seven decades. Francis Gray managed the firm until his death in 1984, and following the tradition of the practice that was started by his grandfather, Dennis Gray continued to undertake commissions for the City of Boston, renovating the Fire Department Headquarters originally designed by the firm in 1949, designing churches and parish buildings, and master planning for state parks and historic landscapes. In 1990 the firm received an award for Excellence in Urban Design from the American Institute of Architects for the Turners Falls Heritage State Park Master Plan. The firm incorporated under the name Gray Architects Inc. in 1994. Recent projects continue to reflect Gray Architect’s history, including work in the academic, ecclesiastical, and corporate fields of design.