by Norbert Schoenauer

Nobbs: Student and Apprentice
Nobbs at McGill
The Practicing Architect
Domestic Architecture
Nobbs, A Versatile Man
Nobbs and Montreal's Architecture



Like most Arts and Crafts-trained architects, Nobbs excelled in domestic design. His first residential design, in partnership with David Robertson Brown (1869-1946), was the now-demolished C.W. Colby House (1905-06). Built for Professor Colby, who occupied the Chair of History at McGill, this house had an unusual twin-gabled front bearing an uncanny resemblance to a cottage in Colinton, Edinburgh, designed by his mentor Lorimer. A year later, this time in partnership with Cecil Burgess, Nobbs designed the J.B. Porter House on McTavish Street, which has also been demolished.

In partnership with Hyde, Nobbs built the John Lancelot Todd country house (1911-13), at 180 Senneville Road, Senneville, an exurb of Montreal. Built entirely of stone, Todd's two-story stately mansion, with an impressive arched porte cochere, a large pillared veranda and sleeping porch, has a steep shingled hipped roof, the angle repeated in its polygonal dormer windows.19

In 1914, five years after his marriage to Mary Cecilia Shepherd, daughter of McGill's Dean of Medicine, Nobbs initiated the building of his own family residence at 38 Belvedere Road (Fig. 7, see p.90). Constructed on the upper slopes of Westmount, this four-story brick building offers its occupants a breathtaking view of the city below. Its steep slated roof and prominent gables, with a subtle flair on the ridge at its gable-ends, are details intrinsic to homes designed by C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941), one of the most famous Arts and Crafts architects.*

Nobbs' and Hyde's Arts and Crafts design tenets are also evident in a cluster of five charming homes built at 3166-3182 The Boulevard (1921-25) (Fig. 8, see p. 90), Westmount. Four of these homes are semi-detached dwellings, and the fifth, detached. Yet another cluster of homes designed by Nobbs and Hyde is the Grove Park Estate (1924-29), Westmount, a group of houses that, too, reflect the turn-of-the-century domestic architectural trend prevalent in England. These clustered homes also echoed Nobbs' belief that, apart from facilitating aesthetic harmony in a residential enclave, groups of dwellings have an added benefit derived from economics. He argued, for example, that there is a substantial saving in building forty houses together, as against forty houses, one by one. In this spirit Nobbs designed other enclaves for residential projects, such as, Belvedere Terrace, Westmount, and Queen Mary's Gardens, Hampstead.

Additional houses in Westmount designed and built by Nobbs and Hyde were: the H.R. Trenholm House (1921) and the J.H. Magor House (1922), both on Mount Pleasant Avenue, and the F.C. Wilson House (1926), Belvedere Place. On Redpath Crescent, on the slopes of Mount Royal, they designed the G.W. Grier House (1928) and the R.R. Dobell House (1928). On Lakeshore Road in Dorval they built the A.H. Scott House (1922) (Fig. 9), a building that pays homage to traditional French Canadian architecture.20

In all his domestic architecture, Nobbs stressed the importance of good sun exposure and efficient ventilation in all rooms of a dwelling. He also believed that all facades of a home should be given equal design consideration in order to ensure that views of the rear of buildings were as pleasing as those of the front.

Susan Wagg's observation that Nobbs attained "the most sought-after goal of progressive Arts and Crafts architects," in the Todd country house, namely "a house that is styleless in the historicist sense-at once modern and timeless" applies to all his domestic design.21


*Professor Bruce Anderson drew the author's attention to the presence of Voyseyesque ridge flair.


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19. Wagg, op. cit., pp. 24-25

20. Ibid., pp.95-97.

21. Ibid., pg.26.