William W. McDowell Jr., 85, formerly of Chestnut Hill, an architect who had designed many custom homes in the Philadelphia area, died Jan. 19 at Springfield Residence in Wyndmoor, where he had lived for the past seven years.
Mr. McDowell, who established his own firm in Chestnut Hill in 1958, designed speculative homes for developers David Eichler and Charles Woodward, and several of his homes stand today in Chestnut Hill.
A longtime Chestnut Hill resident, he served for many years on what is now the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee and the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation.
Born in Chestnut Hill, he attended Chestnut Hill Academy until ninth grade – when the academy closed during World War II – and graduated from St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Del. He received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, serving as captain of the rugby team in his senior year.
After graduation, he was employed for a time with the Philadelphia firm of Howell Lewis Shay, where he worked on several buildings at Penn State University’s main campus.
He received his master’s degree in architecture with high honors from the University of Pennsylvania and was strongly influenced by Louis Kahn, then dean of architecture.
Mr. McDowell’s style has been described as modern, simple and straightforward, putting function first. He one of the first architects to pioneer the “upside-down” house at the New Jersey shore with an oceanfront home he designed in Avalon.
He was a longstanding member of the American Institute of Architects and served on the board of the Germantown Settlement Association.
He also was a member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry for 42 years, achieving the rank of lieutenant, and served in Europe during the Korean War.
Mr. McDowell painted all of his life and was an accomplished watercolorist.
He is survived by sons Bill, George, Andy and Luke; a daughter Nina, and 11 grandchildren. Mr. McDowell’s wife, Toby, and a son, Ian, preceded him in death.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 St. Martin’s Lane in Chestnut Hill. Memorial donations may be made to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 500 W. Willow Grove Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118. – WF