James Evans

Obituary of James Albert Evans

James Albert Evans, 95, formerly of New Canaan and Wilton, Connecticut, died peacefully in his sleep on January 1, 2021, in Camden, ME surrounded by family. Jim, a lifetime architect, and traveler will be remembered for his kind, gentle and humble nature, wry humor, and adventurous spirit. Born June 20, 1925 in Brooklyn, NY, Jim grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, with parents Hoyt and Juliette (Doughty) Evans and brothers Hoyt and Lyon. As a boy, Jim delivered print jobs for his father all over NYC and was a ball boy at the West Side Tennis Club for the US Open. Jim attended The Loomis Institute where he described himself as a “B+ student and smuggler of beer,” before enrolling at Yale University, completing one semester before being drafted into the US Army in 1943. Jim was a Corporal in the US Army, 86th Infantry Division, 341st Regiment, for three years. His regiment went to Europe in 1945 and was transferred to Patton’s Army toward the end of the war to join the troops in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, Jim returned to Yale University. He finished his Bachelor’s degree in 1949 and Master’s of Architecture in 1952. He discovered architecture through an architectural history class that, in his words, “combined creativity and beauty and history”. He had the privilege of learning from modernist Louis Kahn at Yale, who he considered a mentor and an inspiration. Jim married Barbara Grace of Roslyn, NY in 1951. Not ready to settle down after completing his architectural training, in 1952 he moved his young family to Switzerland for his first job. Jim, Barbara and baby Juliette traveled by train nearly every weekend to explore Europe which marked the beginning of decades of international travel. The young family returned to New York after the war, where Jim worked for several architects, including esteemed modernist Paul Rudolph. They lived in Levittown, NY before settling in New Canaan, CT in 1957 when he opened his architecture practice, James Evans Associates, in Stamford. Considered one of the renowned mid-century architects who designed modern homes in the hub of New Canaan, his light filled homes, nestled in their natural settings, were a regular feature in the modern house tours. His firm also designed the Schweppes Building in Stamford, a school and homes in St. Thomas, USVI, early Federal Housing Authority apartments, and various commercial and residential buildings across the country. The Dunes of East Quogue Long Island were featured in Architectural Digest (1963). In collaboration with a Jordanian architect, he designed the Jordan pavilion for the 1963 World’s Fair and met the late King Hussein at the opening. Some examples of Jim’s early work can be found at https://usmodernist.org/evans.htm https://www.departures.com/art-culture/art-design/connecticuts-disappearing-modernist-homes https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/greathomesanddestinations/jay-fieldens-restoration-drama.html https://theclose.com/mid-century-homes-new-canaan/. He admired the work of mentor Louis Kahn, as well as Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Frank Lloyd Wright. He felt that the 20 years after the war - 1950s through the 1960s and early 1970s - were the most interesting and creative for 20th century architecture, as clients wanted more interesting houses rather than being just “big and tall in the front.” Jim turned his creativity inward and built his own glass dream house in New Canaan, CT in 1961, that he described as a “hyperbolic paraboloid in nature”. The family (Jim, Barbara, Juliette, Sarah and Peter) lived there until 1978. These links contain interviews with Jim about the design: https://www.wowhaus.co.uk/2013/10/29/on-the-market-1960s-james-evans-designed-the-evans-house-in-new-canaan-connecticut-usa/ https://www.realtor.com/news/unique-homes/mid-century-marvel-new-canaan-lists-for-2m/ In 1978 he moved into Vantage Point Condominiums in Norwalk, CT, another project he designed. He and Barbara enjoyed sitting on the balcony overlooking the water as boats paraded in and out of the harbor. Jim always enjoyed the challenge of a new project and did not officially retire until he was 90. Even then he continued to design and solve architectural problems for friends and family. He could be found, working contentedly, at his drafting computer past his 95th birthday. Barbara died in 1988 after a three-year battle with cancer and in 1990, Jim married Wilton resident and clothing and jewelry designer Ellen Sperry Fleming. Elly had a sense of wonder and appreciation for beauty in everything she encountered. Jim was an avid traveler and enjoyed exploring this world and its cultures. While Barbara was alive, they traveled internationally with their children. He traveled off the beaten track and made a point of learning about new cultures, instilling in his children a desire and love of travel. Elly shared his love of adventure and discovery; the couple took major trips all over the world once or twice a year. They traveled well into their 80’s and early 90’s, and at age 94 he and his daughter, Sarah, traveled to Egypt and cruised the Nile. Another passion of Jim’s was sailing, starting on Long Island as a child, then racing and cruising throughout his life. His proudest racing victory was winning the Block Island Race in his class in 30 knots of wind. He took annual cruises with his family from Southern New England and Downeast Maine to the Caribbean and sailed the Pacific Northwest. Jim started spending time in Londonderry, VT in the 1950s to ski at Magic Mountain and Bromley. The family bought a house that became the center for decades of fun with friends and family. He was a graceful skier and whistled as he went, cutting a fine line on the slopes. Any skier new to the sport, children, grandchildren and friends, found a patient teacher. His last downhill run was at age 89. Jim was always curious, reading and taking classes to keep learning about subjects ranging from Astronomy to the Shroud of Turin. Jim made a point of keeping up with new technology. When architecture shifted to computer-assisted drafting (CAD), he quickly adapted to new programs. He got iMacs, iPhones and iPads, and made frequent trips to the Apple Store for lessons. He was on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with family news. He sent cryptic text messages and embraced emojis. Jim was known for long Saturday trips to the hardware store. He was especially enamored of duct tape and used it creatively to keep his aging appliances (and clothes) in working order. He was perpetually tinkering and fixing things, softly humming or whistling a tune as he worked. Jim attributed his longevity to viewing his glass as always “half full”. The family attributes his long life to a laid-back and adaptable nature, positive spirit, perseverance, a slow and steady work ethic, humility, gratitude, a thirst for adventure and a desire to keep learning and adapting to modern life. Jim was predeceased by his first wife Barbara Ann Grace in 1988. He leaves behind his second wife, Ellen Fleming Evans of Wilton, CT. He is survived by his children, Juliette Evans Case of Old Lyme, CT, Sarah Evans Dwelley of Camden, ME and her husband Rob, and Peter Evans of Madison, CT and his wife Gabrielle; stepchildren Ward Fleming of Palenville, NY, Candace Fleming French of Providence, RI, and Tim Fleming of Ludlow, VT; grandchildren, Matthias Case (Sonja), Nicholas Case, James Case (Vicky), Molly Case, Amanda Dwelley and Charles Evans; step-grandchildren, Arran French, Francis French, Lucian French, and Eero Fleming; and beloved nieces and nephews. The family will hold a memorial service when COVID-19 health and safety allow. Donations in Jim’s name can be made to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff Arizona: www.lowell.edu. Jim and Elly traveled to the Lowell Observatory on several occasions where Jim was able to pursue his passion for astronomy.
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