James P. Jamieson was born in Falkirck, Scotland, the son of Francis and Jessie (Paterson) Jamieson. After two years of study at the School of the South Kensington Museum, Jamieson came to Philadelphia in 1884, joining his older brother Thomas Paterson Jamieson
and working with him in the firm of R.G. Kennedy
, where he remained for two years. Jamieson then spent one year working for various architects in Minneapolis, MN. Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1889 Jamieson obtained work with the firm of Cope & Stewardson
as a draftsman, and he enrolled for classes at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art.
In 1891, following his marriage to Effie M. Black, also of Scotland, Jamieson and his bride went on a summer wedding trip to Great Britain, where he spent considerable time making rubbings, drawings, and sketches. During the following year Jamieson entered the University of Pennsylvania's competition for a traveling Scholarship. After his design for a "Building for a Numismatic Society" won first place, he returned abroad, traveling to Britain, France, Italy, and Greece during the 1893-1894 year. When he returned to the States, Jamieson resumed his position with Cope & Stewardson and in 1897 added architectural education to his resume by teaching architectural design at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art.
By 1900 Jamieson was a full member of the Cope & Stewardson firm; and when their office in St. Louis was opened following their triumph in the competition for the Washington University campus, Jamieson was placed in charge. After Walter Cope's death in 1902, Jamieson embarked on a number of years during which he traveled between St. Louis and Philadelphia; but in 1912 he elected to remain in St. Louis, establishing the office there as an independent enterprise. In December, 1918, he was joined by George Spearl, another alumnus of the firm of Cope & Stewardson, and the firm continued operation under the name Jamieson & Spearl. Subsequent work on the campus of Washington University was undertaken by Jamieson & Spearl, as well as work at the University of Missouri in Columbus, MO, University of Arkansas, and Berea College, among others.
During his time in Philadelphia, Jamieson belonged to both the T-Square Club and the Philadelphia Chapter of the AlA. In St. Louis he belonged to the St. Louis Chapter of the AlA and the St. Louis Architectural Club.