Fonds 3 - Robert Findlay

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Robert Findlay

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  • 1891-1927 (Creation)
    Findlay, Robert, 1859-1951

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Biographical history

Scottish-Canadian architect Robert Findlay was born in Inverness, Scotland. He began training for his profession at age 17 in his hometown (with John Rhind ’s firm), followed by work in Glasgow (as an assistant to John Burnet). He immigrated to Montreal in 1885 and started working with Alexander Dunlop; he assisted with designs for the St. James Methodist Church at 463 St. Catherine Street West. In 1887 he both married Jane Ameilia Fleming and won a competition for a design for the expansion of the first Sun Life building (predecessor of the building on Dorchester Square). Apparently impressed by the young architect’s talents, Robert Macaulay, president of Sun Life, hired him to design a home for himself. Findlay’s career took off, first in a partnership and then with his own firm; he began getting important commissions for mansions and large homes in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile sector and in nearby Westmount. Eventually he produced designs for about 30 homes in Westmount alone, including residences for the influential Molson and Bronfman families and for his own growing family (at 419/421 Lansdowne Avenue –they lived in the southern half of the semi-detached house). In 1898 he designed the Westmount Public Library, the first of a number of Westmount municipal buildings he created; it was the first municipal library building in the province and was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. There followed a commission in 1899 for Westmount’s original Victoria Hall, a public gathering place which would burn down in 1924. He created the children’s addition to the Westmount library with a separate entrance in 1910. His son Frank joined his firm in 1913 and helped him with the work for Westmount City Hall in 1922, followed by another library extension in 1924. Like the library, many of his designs featured “Queen Anne” style towers, arches and large windows. The Quebec Association of Architects awarded him their first Medal of Merit in 1938. He retired in 1941 and spent the rest of his life in the home on Lansdowne Avenue.

Custodial history

Francis R. Findlay gave the materials to the CAC.

Le matériel du fonds a été remis à la CAC par Francis R. Findlay.

Scope and content

Architectural drawings, photographs and professional correspondence documenting the architectural practice of the Montreal architect Robert Findlay (1859-1951) are found in the CAC archives.

Le fonds de -la CAC réunit des dessins architecturaux, des photographies et de la correspondance professionnelle témoignant des activités de l'architecte montréalais Robert Findlay (1859-1951).

File list:
"Architectural Drawings, 1891-1927, 204 drawings." Twenty-five projects, primarily for domestic architecture in Montreal as well as summer residences in the country surrounding Montreal, are found in the archive. Also included are designs for Calvary Church in Westmount.
"Photographs, 1900-17, 86 photographs." The archive contains photographs documenting finished exteriors and interiors of eighteen projects, mainly domestic architecture. In addition, there are photographs of Calvary Church, Westmount Public Library and the Sun Life Assurance Co. building.
"Professional Correspondence, 1900, 6 cm." Correspondence and specifications regarding the design and execution of the R. W. Reford house and the stables for the F. W. Molson house, both located in Montreal, are included in the archive.

"Dessins architecturaux, 1891-1927, 204 dessins." Vingt-cinq projets, surtout d'architecture domestique à Montréal, de même que des résidences d'été construites dans les environs de Montréal. Le fonds comprend également les plans de l'église Calvary à Westmount.
"Photographies, 1900-1917, 86 photos." Le fonds contient des photos représentant la finition extérieure et intérieure de 18 projets, surtout d'architecture domestique. On y trouve également des photos de l'église Calvary, de la Bibliothèque municipale de Westmount et du siège social de la Sun Life.
"Correspondance professionnelle, 1900, 6 cm." La correspondance et le cahier des charges de la maison R.W. Reford et des écuries de la maison F.W. Molson, toutes les deux situées à Montréal.

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  • English

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Associated materials

Findlay and McGregor, CAC 3.01;
Robert and Francis R. Findlay, CAC 3.02;
Francis R. Findlay, CAC 3.03;
Francis R. Findlay and Percy Roy Wilson, CAC 3.04;
Alexander Francis Dunlop, CAC 16


General note

Robert Findlay was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1859. He began his architectural training at the age of 17, working in the office of the Inverness architect John Rhind for five years. Later Findlay worked at the office of John Burnet (1813-1901) in Glasgow. Upon his emigration to Montreal in 1885 Findlay found employment with Alexander Francis Dunlop (1842-1923) who at that time was working on the design of the St. James Methodist Church. Findlay also worked for the architectural firm of the Wright brothers. In 1887 Findlay gained prominence by winning a competition for the design of the Sun Life Assurance Co. head office building on Notre Dame Street. This competition established his career and enabled him to develop an extensive practice, largely based on residential projects for affluent Montreal merchants and industrialists. Among his public commissions the most noteworthy include his design for the Westmount Public Library which Findlay designed in 1898. Other public buildings include the Montreal Maternity Hospital, Victoria Hall in Westmount and the Westmount City Hall. Prominent residential projects include the Mortimer B. Davis House (now Purvis Hall of McGill University) and the Hallward House (now McGill's Martlet House), as well as many houses in Westmount. In 1913 Findlay's son, Francis Robert (1888-1977) joined his father's firm as a partner. The two Findlays practised architecture together until the elder Findlay's retirement in 1941. In 1938 Robert Findlay became the first recipient of the gold medal of merit from the Quebec Association of Architects, for outstanding contribution to architecture.

For further information, please see Donna McGee. St-Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Montreal: an architectural analysis and history of its early years. M.A. Thesis. Montreal: Concordia University, 1991.

General note

Robert Findlay est né à Inverness (Écosse) en 1859. Il a commencé sa formation en architecture à l'âge de 17 ans en travaillant cinq ans au cabinet de l'architecte John Rhind d'Inverness. Par la suite, il a travaillé pour le cabinet de John Burnet (1813-1901) à Glasgow. Après avoir émigré à Montréal en 1885, Findlay trouve de l'emploi au cabinet d'Alexander Francis Dunlop (1842-1923) qui, à cette époque, élaborait les plans de l'église méthodiste St. James. Findlay a également travaillé pour le cabinet des frères Wright. En 1887, Findlay se fit connaître en gagnant le concours pour la réalisation du siège social de la Sun Life Assurance Company, rue Notre-Dame. Ce concours lui permit d'asseoir sa carrière et lui valut une importante clientèle surtout formée de marchands et industriels montréalais fortunés pour lesquels il construisit de somptueuses demeures. Au nombre des projets publics qu'il réalisa, le plus célèbre demeure celui de la Bibliothèque municipale de Westmount qu'il dessina en 1898. Parmi les autres immeubles publie de sa création, signalons le Montreal Maternity Hospital, Victoria Hall à Westmount et l'hôtel de ville de Westmount. Parmi ses projets résidentiels les plus remarquables, signalons la maison Mortimer B. Davis (qui est maintenant le pavillon Purvis de l'Université McGill) et le Hallward House (aujourd'hui la maison Martlet de McGill) et plusieurs résidences de Westmount. En 1913, le fils de Findlay, Francis Robert (1888-1977) devint l'associé de son père. Les deux Findlay exercèrent l'architecture ensemble jusqu'à ce que Findlay père prenne sa retraite en 1941. En 1938, Robert Findiay devint le premier titulaire de la Médaille d'or de l'Association des architectes de la province de Québec, en hommage à sa contribution exceptionnelle au domaine de l'architecture.

Pour plus de renseignements, consulter l'ouvrage de Donna McGee intitulé St-Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Montreal: an architectural analysis and history of its early years. Thèse de maîtrise. Montreal: Université Concordia, 1991.

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