Ellen James

I know the disadvantages that we labour under in Montreal. In Europe and in the United States students have a great advantage over Canadians. Canadian architects are in a lower position than their brethren in the neighbouring country, not because they have less talent, but because they have not such good opportunities for studying. 1
A. F. Dunlop, 1890

Edward Maxwell (cat. 1a) was determined to get the education that was unavailable to so many Canadian Students. He first learned about construction from his father E. J., who ran a successful lumber company. In his father's library, too, Edward had access to a number of architectural books, including the Elementary Principles of Carpentry by Thomas Tredgold and Treatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architecture by Sir William Chambers.

Edward began his formal architectural training in Montreal as an apprentice in the office of Alexander Dunlop (1842-1923). This is confirmed in a letter writ-ten by Dunlop referring to "my old apprentices, Maxwell and [David Robertson] Brown".
3 The precise dates of Edward's pupilage with Dunlop are not clear, although his student sketchbook confirms that he was still in Montreal in December 1886, at the age of almost nineteen.4

Dunlop, well established as an architect in Montreal by the 1880s, had completed his professional training in Detroit.
5 About 1874 he returned to Montreal, where he was recognized as an "expert in designing the best class of heavy structures and the larger class of residential work".6 During Edward's time in Dunlop's office he likely saw the designs for a large neo-Gothic commission, Saint James Methodist Church (1887-1888) on Sainte-Catherine Street West.

With Dunlop, Edward would have learned the fundamentals of drawing, materials, surveying and construction. Before the 1880s this kind of preparation would have been sufficient to become a practising architect in Canada, as the profession was still rooted in the traditions of the building trades. But by the time Edward undertook his studies, architecture was at a crossroads, and apprenticeship was no longer adequate. The profession was about to change profoundly, emphasizing academic training inspired by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
7 Young Canadians were routinely advised "to go to the United States and obtain an education there".8 A. C. Hutchison, a prominent Montreal architect, observed in 1890:

It is true that young men may enter an office of an architect and spend a few years there, and pick up a knowledge of architecture ... but as to any systematic teaching it has been completely ignored - in fact there are no means of providing it.9

The opportunity for such study did not occur in Canada until 1896, when a chair in architecture was established at McGill.

Edward - surely on Dunlop's advice - went to Boston to pursue his training. By 1888 he was working in the office of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, heirs to the prestigious practice of H. H. Richardson (1838-1886). He remained there through 1891.
10 David Robertson Brown (1869-1946) also worked for an unspecified period in the Shepley office. In 1890 both Edward and brown were living at 138 Boylston Street in Boston.11

When Edward arrived in Boston, the Shepley office was completing a number of commissions undertaken prior to Richardson's death in April 1886. These included the Allegheny County Court House and Jail in Pittsburgh, the Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago, and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Building, all landmarks in Richardson's unique synthesis of historicism and modernism.
12 Edward keenly admired these buildings. A print of the Allegheny County buildings would later hang in his house in Montreal, and a cornice detail of the Marshall Field store and a gable detail of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce were pasted in his scrapbook. In the Shepley office he also had the opportunity to work on an enlargement of the gardener's cottage on the Frederick L. Ames estate in North Easton, Massachusetts, designed by Richardson in 1884-1885.13 Edward's initials appear on the Shepley drawing lists beside sections for "staircase windows, cornices, dormer over porch, bay on west front, stone details of front porch and small slate dormers in roof with copper finials".14 Edward also made plans, elevations and sections for the Ames boathouse.15 Additionally, in March 1891, he made a watercolour sketch of the Ames Gate Lodge designed by Richardson in 1880 (cat. 7b).16

Since Richardson died two years before Edward's name first appears in The Boston City Directory, it is improbable that the two ever met; nevertheless, Richardson's influence on Edward was profound - as it was on countless young architects of the time. Edward's debt to the American architect is apparent in the planning, massing, materials and decoration of his early city and country houses. In his scrapbook he preserved Richardson's signature, his wax seal and several autograph floor plans of the proposed Oliver Ames house, which he probably found in the Shepley office.

From his experience in the ateliers at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Richardson understood the value of artistic collaboration - working, for example, with the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the painter-glazier John Lafarge, and the landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, who was his neighbour and close friend. When Edward established his own practice, he continued this tradition, employing the Canadian sculptors Henry Beaumont and George W. Hill, and working with the American firm of landscape architects begun by Olmsted and continued by his sons.

Beyond the pervasive legacy of Richardson and the immediate experience of the busy Shepley office, Edward also absorbed ideas from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose Beaux-Arts programme permeated the Boston architectural milieu. In 1890, while Edward was in Boston, Henry Van Brunt, whose former partner William R. Ware founded the department of architecture at M.I.T., wrote a two-part article entitled "The Education of the Architect", which appeared serially in a periodical published by M.I.T. These two issues remain in Edward's extensive library.

In his article, Van Brunt outlined an ideal course of study that included a strong background in the history of architecture and in the theory and practice of design. He also offered advice on how to assemble and use a library and suggested a model bibliography, including books by E. E. Viollet-le-Duc, Léon Château, John Ruskin, James Fergusson, G. E. Street and Joseph Gwilt.
19 Edward owned these volumes and many more, making it clear that although he was not enrolled in the architecture department at M.I.T., he was certainly aware of its teachings.

For Edward, and for many other young North American architecture students, information about European buildings was acquired primarily from literary sources and only secondarily from travel abroad; hence, an extensive library was of the utmost importance to both the student and the practising architect.

After opening his office Edward did find opportunities to travel. In 1893 he visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His father, writing to his mother, said: "Eddy was at Chicago last week ... He liked the exhibition ... especially the buildings...”
20 At the fair he would have seen the Beaux-Arts work of McKim, Mead & White, the American firm whose traditional classicism was beginning to dominate the architectural scene and would soon overshadow the innovative work of the pioneer modernists, William LeBaron Jenney and Louis Sullivan. In 1895, Edward went to Venice and Ravenna and in 1896 to Milan. His travel sketchbooks are full of cornices, columns and capitals (fig. 3).21

In addition to his library, Edward's scrapbooks provide a glimpse into his learning process. The scrapbooks are just that - two unsequenced volumes of oddments: sketches, drawings, clippings and simplified plans of his early commissions in Montreal. The collection includes such diverse material as the first-floor plan of the A.W. Nickerson house in Dedham, Massachusetts, at one time attributed to Richardson but in fact designed in the Shepley office soon after 1886; 22 the Williams Institute, New London, Connecticut, also by Shepley; floor plans of a museum, a theatre and a courthouse copied from the Croquis d'architecture; an elevation of the Hôtel de Cluny, and a self-portrait sketch dated April 17, 1891 (cat. 8b).

Edward's library and scrapbooks sum up much of what he learned in Boston - a creative eclecticism adapting elements from Richardson and the American Beaux-Arts. With this newly gained knowledge, he formed a personal style shaped by his own artistic inclinations toward the Picturesque, the wishes of the client and the particular demands of the commission.

By summer 1891 Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge had enough confidence in Edward to send him to Montreal to supervise one of their commissions, the Board of Trade Building.
24 Early in 1892 the twenty-four-year old architect, having received a number of commissions from prominent Montrealers while still acting as Shepley superintendent, seized the day and opened his own office with the reluctant blessing of his Boston employer.25

After his death in 1923, Edward was praised as an architect who "to a remarkable degree ... combined thorough professional knowledge, fine artistic taste and exceptional business and executive ability, and it was only natural that he was considered one of the leading architects of Canada".26) His education and training laid the groundwork for this success.

1 CAB, vol. 3 (October 1890), p 116.Resume Text

2 According to Henry Yates, Edward’s grandson, these books from E. J. Maxwell's library passed into the library of young Edward. Resume Text

3. Letter from A. F. Dunlop to J. B. Abbott, Montreal, March 24, 1910, MMFA Archives, cited in Rosalind M, Pepall, Construction d’un musée Beaux-Arts/Building a Beaux-Arts Museum, exhib. cat. (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1986), p 36 and note 35. Resume Text

4 [Sketchbook 1, 1886], unpaginated, MA, Series 1. Resume Text

5 Clark’s Directory of Detroit, 1870-1871, p, 199), and Directory of Detroit, 18731874, 1 am grateful to Robert Hill for this information. Resume Text

6 The Herald (Montreal), quoted in H. Morgan, The Canadian Men and Women of the Time (Toronto: Briggs, 1898), p 294. Resume Text

7. J. Draper, “The École de Beaux-Arts and the Architectural Profession in the United States: The Case of John Galen Howard"; Bernard M. Boyle, “Architectural Practice in America, 1865-1965: Ideal and Reality”, both in Spiro Kostof, ed., The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp.209ff and 309ff respectively, and K. Crossman, Architecture in Transition: From Art to Practice, 1885-1906 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987), pp.51ff. Resume Text

8 CAB, vol. 4 (September 1891), p. 90. Resume Text

9 CAB, vol.3 (October 1890), p. 114. Resume Text

10 J. D. Forbes, "Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott, Architects: An Introduction", Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 17 (Fall 1958), pp. 19ff; Russell Sturgis, Great American Architects Series No. 3, The Architectual Record Co. (New York: Da Capo, 1977), “Boston Architects, Part 1: Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge" pp. 1ff; and Pepall, 1986, p. 42. The Boston City Directory, 1888, lists Maxwell as a draftsman and gives his address as 13 Exchange, the Shepley office. Resume Text

11 The Boston City Directory, 1890, lists Edward Maxwell, draftsman, boarding at 138 Boylston Street. I am indebted to Abigail G. Smith of the Fogg Library, Harvard University, for this information. For David Brown, see Ordre des architectes du Québec, Montreal, D.R. Brown file (as cited in Pepall, 1986, p.38), and application form for admission as fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA Archive, London File 2572. I am indebted to Robert Hill for this reference. Resume Text

12 For an extensive discussion of these commissions, on which Maxwell may have worked, see Forbes, 1958. Resume Text

13 Henry-Russell Hitchcock, The Architecture of H.H. Richardson and His Times (Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press, 1966), pp. 283-284; J.K. Ochsner, H.H. Richardson, Complete Architectural Works (Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press, 1982), p. 350, item 120; and Larry Homolka, “Richardson’s North Easton”, Architectural Forum, vol. 124 (May 1966), pp. 72ff. Resume Text

14 Shepley enlarged the cottage by adding a full second floor (Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge Drawing Lists, 1890-1893, vol. 3, p, 38, Archives of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott, Architects, Boston, Massachusetts [as cited in Pepall, 1986, p. 137, note 48]). Resume Text

15 The Ames boathouse drawings are initialed by Edward (Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge Drawing Lists, 1890-1893, vol. 3, p. 54). They are not dated, but Shepley's librarian Katherine Green Meyer suggests 1890 as the most plausible year. Resume Text

16 Project no. 501.0, "Perspective of the Ames Gate Lodge", MA. Resume Text

17 [Scrapbook 2, 1889-1894], unpaginated, MA, Series F. Resume Text

18 Henry Van Brunt, "The Education of the Architect", Technology Architectural Review, vol. 3, no. 6 (October 31, 1890), pp. 31ff, and vol. 3, no. 7 (November 29, 1890), pp. 37ff. The copies in the MA bear the signature of Edward Maxwell. Resume Text

19 Ibid., vol.3, no. 7 (November 29, 1890), pp. 38-39. Resume Text

20 Letter from E. J. Maxwell to Johan Maxwell, August 12, 1893 (private collection, Montreal) Resume Text

21 [Sketchbook 3, 1895-1909], unpaginated, MA, Series 1. Resume Text

22 Hitchcock, 1966, p. 285. Resume Text

23 [Scrapbook 2, 1889-1894], unpaginated, MA, Series F. Resume Text

24 CAB, vol. 4 (February 1891), p, 13; CAB, vol. 6 (June 1891), p. 64. For events surrounding Maxwell’s supervision of the Board of Trade Building see also "Daily Journal, 1892", unpaginatcd, MA, Series D. While the exact date of Maxwell's return to Montreal is not known, his admission to the PQAA was a fait accompli by July 1891, and The Boston City Directory of 1891 has him "removed to Montreal, Canada". Resume Text

25 "Daily Journal, 1892", unpaginated, entries for January 11 and 12, and February 3; John Bland, "Edward Maxwell: Biography", in Edward & W.S. Maxwell Guide to the Archive/Guide du fonds (Montreal: Canadian Architecture Collection, McGill University, 1986), p. 5. Resume Text

26 William Wood, ed., The Storied Province of Quebec, 5 vols. (Toronto: Dominion Publishing, 1931), vol. 3, p. 183. Resume Text

Cat. 1a. Edward Maxwell

Cat. 7b.Ames Gate Lodge (North Easton, Massachusettes, by Henry Hobson Richardson)

Edward Maxwell, Gallery detail from the Doge's Palace, Venice, 1895. Montreal, McGill University, Canadian Architecture Collection.

Cat. 8b.Detail if page from Edward Maxwell's scrapbook, vol.2. with self portrait