Fonds 97 - Harold Spence-Sales Fonds

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Harold Spence-Sales Fonds

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  • Source of title proper: The title of the fonds is based on its content.

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  • Approximately 1939 - 2005, 2009, 2012 (Creation)
    Spence-Sales, Harold, 1907-2004

Physical description area

Physical description

Approximately 34 m of textual records, graphic materials, architectural drawings, and cartographic materials.

100 tubes
4 plan hold boxes
6 staktube' file cabinets
Approximately 4 DVDs
Approximately 12 videocassettes
Approximately 30 audio cassettes
# architectural models
# artifacts

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Harold John Author Spence-Sales was born in Lahore, India on October 22nd 1907; he died in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on March 12th 2004. He has become recognized as one of Canada’s most important and influential urban and town planners.

Spence-Sales was home schooled as a child and teenager. He went on to study Architecture at Victoria College in Wellington, New Zealand and The Town Planning Architectural Association in London, England. While studying in London, Spence-Sales met friend, colleague and professional partner John Bland. After completing his studies, Spence-Sales had a successful planning and architectural business in London England. During the Second World War, he designed several sites and munition-material factories for the war effort, and went on to play a role in redeveloping areas of London that were damaged during the Second World War as well.

In 1946, Spence-Sales relocated to Montreal, Quebec, and took up a post at McGill University as a professor of architecture; he would teach at McGill until 1970. While teaching at McGill, Spence-Sales created a graduate program for town planning; it was the first town planning program in Canada. While teaching, he worked on urban development and town planning projects across Quebec and Canada. Between the years 1946-1970, Spence-Sales also became an important figure in developing urban planning legislation in Canada.

After retiring from McGill, Spence-Sales moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, with Mary Filer (1920-2016), a Canadian artist of great renown. After moving to Vancouver, Spence-Sales gravitated away from teaching and began a full time career as an urban and town planning consultant throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He worked on projects across Canada during these years, but he primarily worked on projects in British Columbia.

During the 1990s, Harold Spence-Sales focused less on professional aspirations and turned to personal pursuits. He actively curated art, dabbled in photography, sculpted and created museum exhibitions often about urban landscapes and architectural formations. Harold Spence-Sales also created exhibitions for his personal art gallery and collaborated on projects with Mary Filer.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The Harold Spence-Sales fonds at McGill’s Canadian Architecture Collection primarily contains project records related to Harold Spence-Sales' career as an architect and urban planner. The bulk of the records pertain to projects that Harold Spence-Sales worked on as well as corresponding financial, administrative and office records.

The fond heavily documents projects that Harold Spence-Sales worked on during the 1970s-1980s in British Columbia and in Quebec during the 1940s-1960s. Other projects that Harold Spence-Sales worked on across Canada and internationally appear intermittently throughout the fonds. The Oromocto community planning project that Harold Spence-Sales worked on from 1955-1958 in New Brunswick is particularly well documented. Harold Spence-Sales designed Oromocto to be a military town. Before He transformed Oromocto into a military town it was a defunct 19th century shipbuilding town. The Oromocto project is considered one of Harold Spence-Sales most important urban-town planning projects.

Apart from administrative, office and project records, the fonds also contains records that relate to Harold Spence-Sales professional activities outside of his work as an architect and urban planner. For example, awards and honors that he received and records related to his involvement in architectural and urban planning associations. Additional professional activities include: his involvement in creating exhibitions, curating architectural-themed magazines and periodicals as well as copies of publications that he worked on solo and in collaboration with John Bland.

The fonds also contains fourteen boxes of Harold Spence-Sales personal records. The personal records primarily cover Harold Spence-Sales interest in art, creative pursuits, family activities, family genealogy, personal finances, last will and testaments as well as his decline in health and his death. Within the fourteen boxes that have been cataloged as personal records, there are also materials related to Harold Spence-Sales professional activities. For example, awards that Harold Spence-Sales received and records related to exhibitions and artistic projects that he worked on.

Notes area

Physical condition

Good condition overall.
Project files in tubes, plan hold boxes and staktube' file cabinets remain rolled for storage purposes.

Immediate source of acquisition


The fonds arrangement largely preserves the original order in which the records came to McGill University, with some exceptions. Spence-Sales’ office records, project records and professional records were arranged roughly thematically in folders in alphabetical order. These groupings have been respected and retain the original physical order as well, with the exception of some files being regrouped according to the series and subseries. The personal records did not arrive in any particular order and were arranged by topic.

Records in the tubes, plan hold boxes and staktube' file cabinets retain their original order; they are organized chiefly by project. The tubes arrived in numerical order from 1–100. Records in the plan hold and staktube' file cabinets arrived numbered by slot and are clustered together numerically by project.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Materials chiefly in English. Includes some French, Spanish, Hebrew and German records.

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Restrictions on access

The fonds contains some records related to Harold Spence-Sales personal finances. The fonds also includes copies of Harold Spence-Sales and Mary Filer’s wills as well that of Earle Leon Filer. The fonds also has personal financial records related to Harold Spence-Sales personal residence in Preville Quebec.

Access to these records have been restricted and permission to use them is required.

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Physical description

Fonds also Includes photographs, contact prints, technical drawings, blueprints, slide transparencies, scrapbooks, agendas, a flag (designed by Harorld Spence-Sales), professional stamps and seals, award certificates, architect-urban planners tools, paintings and minor artifacts related to personal and professional projects.

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