McGill University Union
Sherbrooke St., Montreal, QC, Canada
Educational, Recreational club (sub-basement, basement, 4 floors); stone; composite.

Client: McGill University
Architect: P.E. Nobbs and Hutchison and Wood

Description: In 1904 Percy Nobbs received the commission from McGill’s board of governors for the design of the Student’s Union on Sherbrooke Street West. The Union was one of several gifts by Sir William Christopher Macdonald (1831-1917), McGill’s great benefactor, and Chancellor of McGill (1914-1917). Work was carried out in association with Montreal architects Hutchison and Wood. In 1965, the building was remodeled to house the McCord Museum of Canadian History. “The McGill Union is a simple four-sided block with a surface of dressed Montreal limestone. But across these elevations, and in a manner entirely and beautifully determined by the interior spaces, Nobbs played with the elements at his disposal. These are simple enough – a broad cornice, string course, oriel windows, late-Gothic mullions, a broken pediment. All are borrowed from the architecture of England, but they are abstracted and used out of context, freely, dictated by the formality and classicism of the building’s symmetrical plan and massing. The result is certainly one of the best examples in Canada of the spirit of the Arts and Crafts; that is honesty of materials, expression of plan, utility of ornament, free development on historical models.” Kelly Crossman, Architecture in Transition: From Art to Practice, 1885-1906 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987) , 133-34. “The McGill Union is important, not only because it is his first independent work, but because it so perfectly embodies Nobb’s architectural philosophy as expressed in his writing and teaching at the time. In addition to fulfilling its primary function as a student dining and gathering place, it served as an object lesson for his architecture students, a fact that was noted by the press at the time of the opening in 1906.” Susan Wagg, Percy Erskine Nobbs: Architect, Artist, Craftsman (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1982) , 13.

Holdings: Recreational club (sub-basement, basement, 4 floors); stone; composite.

132 Drawings: 32 ink on linen; 11 ink on paper; 1 pencil on linen; 77 pencil on paper; 11 watercolour on paper

6 Presentation drawings: elevation on Sherbrooke St., elevation on Victoria St., exterior perspective of view from N.W., longitudinal section, traverse section
48 Development drawings: floor plans, room plans, fireplace, entrance, furniture
10 Working drawings: foundations, floor plan, elevation, section, structural plans, mechanical plans
64 Detail drawings: coping, fittings, terracotta, entrance, stairs, doors, room plans and elevations, plasterwork (incl. ceiling), balcony, furniture, windows, notice boards, cornice, screen, stonework (incl. entrance, cornice, arch), woodwork (incl, finishes), ironwork (incl. bracket, balustrade, fittings), marble and tile floor
4 Record drawings: floor plans, elevations, cornice, coping, sill course

44 Photographs: 3 plans; 11 finished exteriors; 16 finished interiors; 13 details; 1 other

Comments: Inscription on photograph verso: "Wrought iron flower/McGill University Union/Design P.E. Nobbs/Ext Craftsman H. Sontheim." Building subsequently remodelled to house McCord Museum. See also 3d objects no. 2, 4, and 10.