James R. Weir, architect and preservationist, died on Nov. 16, surrounded by family in his Westport, MA home. He was 71. The third of four children, Weir was born in San Diego, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Cambridge, MA to attend Harvard University. As a young person, he had developed a deep appreciation of the natural world and loved bird-watching and being outdoors. His experience designing buildings as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia kindled his interest in architecture. He graduated from Harvard's Graduate School of Design in 1970. Weir and his wife Rosalind spent the next three decades in Cambridge, where they reared their four children and he started his own architecture firm. During this period, he served for 10 years as a board member of the Boston Preservation Alliance, a non-profit organization formed to protect the city's architectural heritage, prevent the dissolution of historic neighborhoods, and influence their future development. He was also a Board member of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education for six years. In 1984, a project took him to Tiverton, RI where he was charmed by the simplicity of the Quaker architecture and natural beauty of the area. The couple then spent 30 years restoring and renovating the 300-year-old village of Tiverton Four Corners, transforming it into a vibrant shopping area and community of the arts-an antithesis of the modern day strip mall. They also founded an arts center that provided a venue for concerts, film series, theatrical performances, exhibits, and arts education. The Weirs moved permanently to the area in the mid-2000s. Weir helped to develop Farmcoast, an organization formed to support local businesses and attract visitors while protecting the farm and coastal areas south of Boston. "I don't operate on the principles of a real estate developer," he told The Providence Journal in 2010. "We've been trying to revitalize the village out of a sense of optimism and an interest in its historic fabric." Shortly before Weir's death, the Tiverton Town Council took steps Weir had long sought to expand historic protections for Four Corners. Weir is survived by his wife Rosalind; his brothers Bill and Gordon and sister Vivy; his Aunt Viv and Uncle Kenward; his four children Oliver, Cara, Chester, Lizza and their families, including six grandchildren. Weir's long-term vision was to merge the efforts of environmentalists and building preservationists. He recognized that economic development, appreciation of the arts, and natural conservation must all happen in concert. In lieu of flowers and in honor of his life's work, the family requests that any donations be made to the Tiverton Land Trust (http://www.tivertonlandtrust.org/support-trust.php) or the Four Corners Arts Center in Tiverton, Rhode Island (http://tivertonfourcorners.com/artscenter/donate.html). The family is planning a celebration of Jim's life in Tiverton Four Corners, Saturday, October 11, 2014.
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Published in The Cambridge Chronicle from Nov. 23 to Nov. 30, 2013