by John Bland [1911-2002]

The Canadian Architecture Collection began with drawings and photographs assembled by the staff and students of the McGill School of Architecture. In 1917 the University Annual Report recorded, "The staff of the Department is collecting a number of drawings and photographs of historic buildings of Canada, with the object eventually of forming a record of the older architecture of the Dominion, particularly of the Province of Quebec." In the following year the Report recorded: "The collection of photographs of the late Mr. C.T. Hart, purchased by the University Library, contains a number of old photographs of buildings in the Province, many of them now destroyed. These it is intended to incorporate with the Department collection to form the nucleus of a full Architectural Survey of the Dominion."

The collection grew extensively in the twenties following the commotion caused by Gustave Baudouin's report upon the careless loss of so many heritage buildings in Quebec. Then several photographic surveys of old houses and churches were undertaken for the Historic Monuments Commission, and it appears copies of some of them were given to McGill. At the same time the Province of Quebec Association of Architects prize drawings and sketches that were exhibited at the Montreal Art Association in 1924 were deposited in the Blackader Library. It was then also that the measuring of old buildings became a regular part of the Department's annual sketching school under the direction of Ramsay Traquair. Traquair also supervised the historical drawing classes during the session, where notes and measurements were converted into handsome ink drawings that could be reproduced to illustrate reports intended to form a record of the old architecture of Quebec. At this time Traquair and his assistants also made photographs of the works they were examining. In many cases positives were mounted on cards and added to the collection, but in all cases the negatives were identified and preserved.

For twenty years after Traquair's retirement very little was added to the collection. But in the sixties, threatened demolitions in Montreal for the New Courthouse, a city car park, and the expressway aroused fresh interest in measuring buildings about to vanish.

Then, architecture students under John Bland's direction were given summer employment by the City Planning Department to make records of the buildings to be demolished. The Hôtel de France on the Champ de Mars was measured and its stones numbered for possible re-erection; instead it, with its neighbours on Little St.-James Street, were used for fill on the Expo islands. The buildings below the Château de Ramezay on rue St.-Paul and Place Jacques Cartier, acquired for a city car park, were measured. The controversy over this proposal resulted in the establishment of the Jacques Viger Commission and the ultimate designation of the area between rue Notre Dame and the harbour from rue Berri to rue McGill as a protected area: Vieux Montréal.

In the enthusiasm for preservation and restoration that resulted from this action, several major buildings and street elevations in Vieux Montréal were measured and drawn up for the Planning Department. The originals were added to the collection in the Library. Since funds were sufficient and hands available, certain major nineteenth century buildings outside the area of Vieux Montréal were also measured; drawings of the Villa Maria, the Manoir Beaujeu, and the buildings at the Pointe Î Moulin, Île Perrot were added to the collection.

About this time a number of boxes of photographs of old buildings in Quebec made by the late Edgar Gariépy were acquired by John Bland, and photographs of old buildings in the Maritime provinces were presented to the Collection by James Acland and Ross Anderson of the University of Toronto. Moreover, the Collection has continually benefited through the gifts of photographs which A.J.H. Richardson made in his studies of old buildings in Quebec and Montreal. From time to time, Notman photographs, and photographs from the Public Archives of Canada, have been added to the collection as spin-offs of illustrated articles prepared by members of staff.



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