He received a public school education in Boston, and after becoming interested in architecture, Wells went to New York where he studied under Clarence Luce.
He worked in the office of Richard M. Hunt, but did not, as sometimes believed, finish his training in France. After securing a position as designer in McKim’s office he worked there only a little more than a decade when death cut short a promising career. He was thirty-seven years of age.
He worked firm of McKim, Mead & White from 1872 until the time of his decease, often referred to as "McKim's right-hand man." An ardent exponent of Italian Renaissance forms, Mr. Wells was largely responsible for the adoption of that style as exemplified by the Villiard mansions on Madison Avenue, facade of the Century Association Building in New York, and the Memorial Building in New Britain, Connecticut.