Maxwell Archive                                                                     Back

In 1954, most of the Maxwell Archive was donated to the Canadian Architecture Collection by Edward Maxwell’s widow, Ellen Aitchison, following the dismantling of her husband’s office after the death of Gordon Pitts. Subsequent donations were made by other Maxwell family members: Madame Mary Maxwell Rabbani, daughter of W.S. Maxwell; Mrs. H. Stirling Maxwell; Henry Yates, grandson of Edward Maxwell; and by Mary MacPherson, daughter of Gordon Pitts. Further donations were made to the archive after the publication of Edward and W.S. Maxwell: A Guide to the Archive (1986) between 1986 and 1991 by Mary Maxwell Rabbani, Hugh Locke, Henry Yates and Robert Coppenrath and Associates.

The Maxwell archive spans the full history of one of Canada's largest and most influential architectural firms, beginning in 1892 when Edward Maxwell first started his private practice in Montreal. Edward had apprenticed with Alexander Francis Dunlop (1843-1923) and later with Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, H.H. Richardson's old firm. This training lent Edward's work a distinctive Richardsonian character, mixed with late Victorian eclecticism, that is well-illustrated in his designs for buildings in Montreal and across the rest of Canada. Edward made his mark designing homes for the wealthy residents of Montreal's Square Mile, as well as commercial establishments, churches and civic and cultural buildings. In 1899 George C. Shattuck (1864-1923) came from Boston to help Edward conduct business when the practice became busy. Shattuck's participation in the firm was brief (ending in 1901). However, it was during this time that Edward undertook one of his most important projects, the additions and alterations to Windsor Station for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Montreal. The firm's most fertile period began when William replaced Shattuck as Edward's partner in 1902, and continued until the elder brother's death. William's Beaux-Arts training and proclivity for strongly decorative designs gave the Maxwells' designs increased vitality. The brothers continued to build in Montreal, although their greatest commissions took them elsewhere: to Quebec City for the additions to the Chateau Frontenac and to Regina for the design of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. The last phase of the firm's existence began after Edward's death when New Brunswick-born Gordon MacLeod Pitts (1886-1954), a member of the Maxwell firm from 1919, became a partner. The firm executed projects as Maxwell and Pitts until William retired in 1939.

The scope and content of the E. & W.S. Maxwell Archive spans the four partnerships between 1890 and 1951. The material includes:

16, 235 drawings, sub-divided chronologically

746 photographs, including 45 negatives and 99 silver prints of houses, monuments and other buildings designed by Edward and W.S. Maxwell and their associates

0.26 m of Architectural Operations, from 1895 to 1984, of manuscripts, typescripts, clippings and correspondence relating to projects undertaken by the Maxwell firm

0.65 m of Office Records, from 1892 to 1951, which contains

four volumes of Commission Books from 1892-1904

four volumes of Work Cost Books from 1894-1951

one volume of a Tender record book from 1892-1894

three volumes of Office Ledgers from 1900-1944

one volume of a Revenue Account Book from 1901-1954

one volume of a Draughtsmans Hours per Client Book from 1894-1901

one volume of a Day Book from 1899-1900

two photo albums

one volume of a Daily Journal from 1892, covering Edward Maxwell's professional and personal activities as well as daily expenses for 1892 when he was superintending the Montreal Board of Trade Building

six volumes of Measurement Books from 1898-1912

two volumes of Scrap Books from 1894-1914, including plans of early Maxwell houses

one sectional wood model of the Regina Legislative and Executive Building in Saskatchewan

In addition to student papers and biographical files, the E. & W.S. Maxwell Archive provides a wealth of opportunities for researchers to examine the nature of 19th and 20th century architectural documentation and the Maxwells’ role in the development of Canadian architecture.