CITY PLANNING AND URBAN BEAUTIFICATION
Jeanne M. Wolfe and Peter Jacobs
The work of the Maxwells reaches beyond architectural design into the realm of city planning and beautification. In an attempt to achieve modern standards of urban design, the Maxwells collaborated with such important landscape architects as John C. Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (sons of Frederick Law Olmsted), Frederick Todd, and Rickson Outhet; and they were members of a number of municipal improvement committees.
One of the major factors that shaped urban planning theory at the turn of the century was the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At least two Montreal architects are known to have visited the exposition: Andrew Taylor, a councillor of the newly founded Province Of Quebec Association of Architects, and Edward Maxwell. Although Edward's favourable reaction is only briefly referred to in a letter from his father to his mother,1 Taylor shared his impressions at length with the PQAA, extolling the beauties of the "Fair White City on the shores of Lake Michigan".2 His speech, reported widely, helped spark an enduring interest among Montreal architects in city planning and the aesthetics of the urban landscape.
The town planning movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represented the convergence of a number of reform initiatives aimed at ameliorating the urban squalor occasioned by extraordinarily rapid industrialization and urbanization. By the late nineteenth century, most North American cities had a league for public health reform, a parks and playgrounds association, a fledgling architectural association, usually fostering City Beautiful ideas, a municipal art movement and a lobby against corruption and illegal practices in city government.3 Toward the end of the century, fuelled by the ideas of the Garden City movement in Britain and the urban park movement in North America, these groups advocated town planning as a remedy for the ills they addressed.
Montreal was no exception. The appallingly overcrowded workers' housing stimulated calls for public health reform. 4 The physical planning component of the reform movement focussed on proposals for improving sanitary conditions, structuring the city fabric with wide tree-lined streets and conserving natural environments. One important project was the recreational development of Mount Royal, which was acquired by the city in 1874 for the almost inconceivable sum of $1,000,000. Frederick Law Olmsted was retained to design the park and undertook the work between 1874 and 1876. 5
The PQAA, founded in 1890, served as the platform from which the Maxwells and other leading Montreal professionals promoted the urgent need for urban reform. Early in the Association's history, architects proposed that there should be a municipal board to approve plans of all new buildings and to foster the coherence of streetscapes. Following his visit to the Chicago exposition, Andrew Taylor drafted a petition requesting that City Council appoint a Standing Art Committee to "examine and report on all plans, designs and models of monuments and embellishments of our public squares and avenues".6 Despite the PQAA’s continued insistence, a committee was never appointed.
Meanwhile, the City Beautiful movement had been gaining momentum. In the wake of Daniel Burnham's plans for Washington (1902) and San Francisco (1905), many cities embarked on studies, and in both Toronto and Montreal the local associations of architects assumed leadership. 7 At the urging of Percy Nobbs, in 1906 the PQAA set up a Civic Improvement Committee, and in 1907 William Maxwell became its chairman. Eleven meetings were held that year, with Mr. Pinoteau, Superintendent of Parks, and, among other groups, the Parks and Playgrounds Association. The committee applied to Montreal's Parks and Playgrounds Committee (then responsible for open spaces and recreation) for an annual grant of $500, which was received in 1907 and 1908.8
By early 1908 William Maxwell's Civic Improvement Committee had drafted an overall plan, and four subcommittees had been formed. Schemes were proposed for Lafontaine Park and the development of Duluth Street into a boulevard connecting Fletcher's Field and Sherbrooke Street; for Park Avenue, with proposals to develop it as a boulevard with one side for pleasure driving and the other for heavy traffic; for Atwater Avenue and the riverfront as far as the Victoria Bridge; and for diagonal streets from the city centre outwards to the urban edge.9
The PQAA retained Rickson Outhet, Canada's first native-born landscape architect, to help develop the proposals. Outhet had trained in the Olmsted office, where he was assigned to work on Burnham's revision of L’Enfant's plan for Washington. This experience with the design of major transportation corridors, boulevards and avenues was essential in articulating the goals developed for Montreal under Maxwell's guidance. By June 15, 1908, the plans (fig. 10) were ready for submission to the city and for publication in brochure form.
Upon the founding of the Civic Improvement League in 1909 to act as a clearinghouse for civic betterment activities, the PQAA Civic Improvement Committee immediately became a member, and the new umbrella group took over the task of publicizing and trying to sell both the merits of the architects' plan and the need for an overall planning authority. In fact, in the report of the PQAA Civic Improvement Committee for 1910, William Maxwell explained that it had been less active that year because of the formation of the Metropolitan Parks Commission (which lasted a brief two years). He noted that the architects had offered their direct professional services to this commission but "were informed that ideas would be drawn in a broad way ... and that for purposes of criticism and advice they had decided to call in an American expert of ‘international reputation’”. 10 The original intent seems to have been to invite Daniel Burnham, or it not, F. L. Olmsted, Jr. This episode resulted in a spat between Percy Nobbs, Professor of Architecture at McGill, an ardent town planning advocate and active member of the PQAA committee, and Maxwell. Nobbs, apparently objecting to the fact that an American rather than a Canadian architect was to be called in for advice, tendered his resignation (soon withdrawn) from Maxwell's committee. 11
In any event, F. L. Olmsted, Jr. did come to Montreal for three days in September 1910, and a copy of his report is to be found in the Maxwell Archive. It deals with rapid transit, the need for a hierarchical street plan, and recreation - Olmsted advocated a recreational centre not farther than one-quarter mile from every home in the city and proposed that at least five percent and not more than ten percent of new urban subdivisions be given over to open space.
Maxwell continued to work with the Civic Improvement League. W. D. Lighthall, the mayor of Westmount, became a convenor of its City Planning Committee, which included such notable citizens as Sir William Van Horne. The league "constantly promoted the study of city housing and advocated schemes for garden cities and for workingmen's dwellings, side by side with those for more parks, playgrounds, and open spaces as desired by all town planners". 12
The Maxwell brothers collaborated extensively with urban planners and landscape architects, as they did with artists and craftsmen (cat. 57d). In Senneville alone, the firm worked with Olmsted Brothers on the estates of E. S. Clouston (1899), R. B. Angus (1899) and L.-J. Forget (1900). 13 In Montreal they worked together on the properties of H. V. Meredith (1894) and James Ross (1899).14
The natural successor to the Olmsteds in Montreal was Frederick G. Todd. The quiet vision of Todd is little known despite his broad career spanning forty-five years in Canada.15 Born in New Hampshire in 1876, Todd attended the Agricultural College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and then worked for four years in the Olmsted office before moving to Montreal in 1900. As an Olmsted apprentice, he worked on the landscape designs for Maxwell -designed houses in Montreal and later did others on his own, including the grounds of the Hosmer house on Drummond Street (1905), the L.-J. Forget estate in Senneville (1908) and the J.K.L. Ross house on Peel Street (1909). He soon became nationally known, publishing his seminal report on the parkway system for Ottawa in 1903. 16 Todd was also an active member of the Civic Improvement League and an ardent advocate of the Olmsted legacy. 17
Todd had worked on the implementation of the Olmsted plan for Mount Royal when he was an apprentice in the firm in 1896. When he moved to Montreal, one of his first projects involved a proposed site plan and a substantial chalet for the lookout atop the mountain park. 18 Although it was never executed, Todd continued to be involved with the park site and collaborated on a subsequent chalet, designed by the Maxwells and Marchand & Haskell in 1906, which was built (cat. 58c). In accordance with Olmsted's earlier work on the park, the planting plan made rich use of native plants, and it complemented the elegant lines of the chalet as well.
In addition to their collaboration on civic design proposals, the Maxwells worked with Rickson Outhet on a number of private residences, including the D. McNicoll house on Côte-Saint-Antoine Road (1905), the E.T. Gait house on Simpson Street (1909), the Percy Cowans house on Ontario Avenue (now Avenue du Musée; 1910) and the Shirres house, also on Ontario Avenue (1911).
The Maxwell firm also collaborated with notable Canadian sculptors on several public monuments. These include the Strathcona Memorial on Dominion Square (1904), and the monuments to John Young on Youville Square (1906) and to Sir George-Étienne Cartier on Park Avenue (1913-1914; cat. 57a). The Young statue was sculpted by Philippe Hébert, those of Strathcona and Cartier by George W. Hill (fig. 11). 19
The commitment of Edward and William Maxwell to urban reform and the enhancement of the built environment was most clearly expressed in their many noteworthy architectural projects. This commitment extended as well to the urban design, landscape and public monuments of the city they loved so well.
1 Letter from E. J. Maxwell to Johan Maxwell, August 12, 1893 (private collection, Montreal). Resume Text
2 "Province Of Quebec Association of Architects: Proceedings of the Annual Convention", CAB, vol. 6 (October 1893), p. 104. Resume Text
3 Paul Rutherford, ed., Saving the Canadian City (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), and Gilbert A. Stetler and Alan F. J. Artibise, eds., The Canadian City: Essays in Urban History (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977). Resume Text
4 Herbert Ames, The City below the Hill (1897; reprinted, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972); Émile Nadeau, “ Promenade mélancolique à travers les cimetières de Québec”, Le Bulletin médical de Québec, vol. 15 (1913), pp. 248-271, 299-324; and Marie Adami, J. George Adami: A Memoir (London: Constable, 1930). Resume Text
5 Frederick Law Olmsted, Mount Royal (New York: Putnam, 1881). Resume Text
6 Walter Van Nus, "The Plan-Makers and the City. Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, and Urban Planning in Canada, 1890-1939" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto, 1975), pp. 154, 163 Resume Text
7 Thomas S. Hines, Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979); James Lemon, "Plans for Early 20th Century Toronto: Host in Management", Urban History Review, vol. 18 (June 1989), pp. 11-31; "Montreal Notes", CAB, vol.19 (March 1906), p. 41; and Jeanne M. Wolfe, “Montréal: des plans d'embellissement ", Continuité, vol. 31 (Spring 1986), pp. 24-27. Resume Text
8 PQAA Archives, Box 06-P-124-2 (1908), Letter folder 6, "Report of the Civic Improvement Committee of the PQAA for 1907", lanuary 3, 1908. Resume Text
9 Edward Maxwell, "Parks and Parkways", PQAA Yearbook (1907); PQAA Archives, Box 06-P-124-2 (1908), Letter folder 6, "Report of the Civic Improvement Committee", May 12, 1908, and June 12, 1908; and Jeanne M. Wolfe, "Yesterday's Tomorrows: Some Early Plans for Montreal", The Fifth Column, vol. 2 (Winter 1982), pp. 6-11. Resume Text
10 PQAA Yearbook (January 3, 1911). Resume Text
11 PQAA Archives, Box 06-P-124-2 (1910), Letter folder 8 (December 6-7), and "Report of Mr. F L. Olmsted to the Metropolitan Parks Commission" (typescript, 1910), MA. Resume Text
12 William H. Atherton, Montreal (1535-1914) (Montreal: S.J. Clarke, 1914), vol. 2, p. 673. Resume Text
13 On the Olmsted’s work, see John Taylor Boyd, Jr., "The Work of Olmsted Brothers", Architectural Record, vol. 44 (December 1918), pp. 502-521. Resume Text
14 Charles E. Beveridge, comp., The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm 1857-1950 (Boston: National Association for Olmsted Parks in conjunction with the Massachusetts Association for Olmsted Parks, 1987). Resume Text
15 Peter Jacobs, "The Quiet Vision of Frederick Todd", in Roots Landscape Architecture in Canada (1976). Resume Text
16 Ottawa Civic Improvement Commission, Report of Frederick G Todd on the Parkway System of Ottawa (1903). Resume Text
17 Peter Jacobs, "Frederick G. Todd and the Creation of Canada's Urban Landscape", in Landscape Preservation, special issue of The Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology, vol. 15, no, 4 (1983), pp. 27-37, Resume Text
18 Frederick G. Todd, "Character in Park Design", Canadian Municipal Journal (October 1905). Resume Text
19 Colin S. MacDonald, ed., A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (Ottawa: Canadian Paperbacks, 1968), pp. 442-443, and Agnes Joynes, "Sculpture of G. W. Hill", Saturday Night (May 14, 1938), p, 2. Resume Text
Fig. 10. Rickson A. Outhet, Fletcher's Field, Montreal, improvements recommended by the Province of Quebec Association of Architects,1909. Montreal, McGill University, Canadian Architecture Collection.
Cat. 57d.Model for the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Monument
Cat. 58c.Pavillion and "Lookout". Mount Royal Park
Cat.57a. Monument to Sir George-Etienne Cartier
Fig. 11. Photographer unknown,George Hill in his studio,undated. Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.