Portnall, Francis Henry

PORTNALL, Francis Henry (1886-1976), a leading architect in Regina, Sask., was born on the Isle of Wight, Co. Surrey, England on 3 May 1886 and at the early age of 14 years he travelled to London to study. In 1901 he joined the office of William A. Pite, a member of the well-known Pite family of London architects which spanned three generations. Portnall articled with Pite & Balfour (in 1901-05), then moved to Carlisle, England to work as assistant to James H. Martindale (1905-06) before deciding to emigrate to Canada in late 1906. He settled in Winnipeg where he quickly found work as a staff member in the busy Winnipeg branch office of Darling & Pearson, and they sent him to Regina to supervise the construction of their design for Knox Metropolitan Church. In 1907 Portnall collaborated with two other staff members from the Winnipeg office of Darling & Pearson, including Alfred B. Scarlett and a "Mr. Lennell", on an entry in the competition for the City Hall in Calgary (Morning Albertan [Calgary], 7 May 1907, 4, list of competitors). Their scheme was one of nine designs submitted, but their proposal was passed over in favour of the winning scheme by William Dodd.

After returning to Winnipeg from Regina, he worked as an assistant to James B. Mitchell, Chief Architect of the School Board in that city. While he was in Regina, he met many of the prominent members of the profession, and this likely influenced his decision to later move to Regina in 1908 to join the office of Clemesha & Coltman, and then to accept the invitation of Frederick C. Clemesha to form a partnership with him in 1913 (see list of works under Clemesha & Portnall). Together, they won the competition for the Winnipeg City Hall (1913; but not built), and they won the competition for the Canadian Battlefields Memorials in France and Belgium (1921). Portnall served overseas during WWI with the 10th Brigade Machine Gun Company from 1915 to 1919, then returned to Regina where he continued to work with Clemesha until 1922 when their partnership was dissolved. He opened his own office that same year, and made a speciality of designs for educational, ecclesiastical and residential buildings, many executed in a finely composed and impeccably detailed Collegiate Gothic or Georgian revival style. In 1928 Portnall was one of fifteen competitors who submitted proposals for the Saskatoon War Memorial Cenotaph. His scheme for a tall granite plinth incorporating a public clock face was awarded First Premium of $250, and is perhaps the only war memorial in Canada to include the device of a working timepiece in the architectural form of the monument.

Portnall may also be the author of the remarkably sophisticated modernist design of the Dominion Public Building in Regina (1935-36), a stepped wedding-cake edifice which is unlike any other federal building initiated by the Dept. of Public Works during this period of 1930 to 1940. An article published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 8 January 1935, p. 5 indicates that it was Portnall who was "....summoned to Ottawa" to advise and consult on the design, and to modify the plans, and other two architects F.B. Reilly and J.H. Puntin who collaborated with Portnall on this commission were the local associate architects who worked with him on this federal government building (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 19 Jan. 1925, 5).

Portnall held the post of President of the Saskatchewan Assoc. of Architects in 1928-29, and was nominated as a Fellow of the R.A.I.C. in 1945. He was in partnership with Daniel H. Stock from 1945 to 1951, and their firm can be credited with introducing some of the most progressive modernist works in the Prairies, including the striking designs for the International Harvester Showroom at Yorkton, Sask (1948) and the transparent glass cube for the Willson Stationary Store in Regina (1948). In 1953 Portnall was joined by E. Hendrick Grolle, an architect and engineer, and remained active in the profession after 1960. Portnall died in Regina on 13 September 1976 (obituary in Leader-Post [Regina], 15 Sept. 1976, 15; biog. and port. Regina Leader, 4 March 1913, 11; biog. in the National Reference Book, iii, 1929-30, 353; biog. and port. in R.A.I.C. Journal, xxii, Oct. 1945, 216; biog. by Betty Barootes in Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 35-6; inf. Frank Korvemaker, Regina). The Saskatchewan Archives Board in Regina holds an extensive collection of drawings by Clemesha & Portnall, by F.H. Portnall, and by Portnall & Stock (SAB Acc. R77-261). Most projects noted below are documented by drawings in this collection).

F.H. PORTNALL (works in Regina unless noted)

RAYMORE, SASK., public school, 1923 (Morning Leader [Regina], 12 Jan. 1924, 12, illus. & descrip.)
SILTON, SASK., Union Church, Tayler Street, 1924 (M. Hryniuk & F. Korvemaker, Legacy of Worship: Sacred Places in Rural Saskatchewan, 2014, 83, illus.; dwgs. at SAB)
CLIMAX, SASK., public school for the Glenedyth School District, 1924 (Morning Leader [Regina], 7 July 1924, 10, t.c.; dwgs. at SAB)
MAPLE LEAF HOSTEL, St. Chad's Anglican College, 16th Avenue near St. John Street, 1925 (list of works in National Reference Book, iii, 1929-30, 353; dwgs. at SAB)
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 14th Avenue at Albert Street, 1926 (Souvenir of Regina 1903-1953, 71, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at SAB)
GRACE CHURCH, 15th Avenue at Winnipeg Street, 1925-26 (dwgs. at SAB)
CEYLON, SASK., public school, 1925 (Morning Leader [Regina], 25 April 1925, 11, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at SAB)
BISHOP'S PALACE, for the Anglican Bishop of the Qu'Appelle Diocese, College Avenue at Bishop's Drive, 1926 (dwgs. at SAB)
(with F.B. Reilly) MASONIC TEMPLE, Lorne Street near Victoria Avenue, 1926 (dwgs. at SAB)
SHAUNAVON, SASK., department store, 1926 (Const., xix, Sept. 1926, 284)
SHAUNAVON, SASK., War Memorial, 1926 (Morning Leader [Regina], 12 Nov. 1926, 8, descrip.)
REGINA POWER & LIGHT CO., office building, 1927 (dwgs. at SAB)
BENGOUGH, SASK., major addition to public school, 1927 (Morning Leader [Regina], 25 June 1927, 27, t.c.)
PUNNICHY, SASK., public school, 1927 (R.A.I.C. Journal, iv, Nov. 1927, 410, 412, illus.; H. Kalman, History of Canadian Architecture, 1994, 741, illus. & descrip.)
ANGUS CRESCENT, near Angus Boulevard, residence for F.H. Portnall, architect, 1927; still standing in 2023 (Sask. Association of Architects Official Handbook, 1943, 97, illus.; Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 90, illus.)
THOMSON PUBLIC SCHOOL, Toronto Street near 13th Avenue, 1927-28 (Morning Leader [Regina], 15 June 1927, 11; R.A.I.C. Journal, vi, April 1929, xv, illus. in advert.)
NORMAN BLOCK, 11th Avenue at Osler Street, for Norman Wolfman, 1928 (C.R., xlii, 29 Feb. 1928, 50; dwgs. at SAB)
NORTH SIDE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Athol Street North at 6th Avenue, 1928 (dwgs. at SAB)
ARCOLA, SASK., Brock Union Hospital, 1928 (Morning Leader [Regina], 20 June 1928, 10, illus. & descrip.)
SASKATOON, SASK., War Memorial, City Hall Square, 1928 (R.A.I.C. Journal, v, Sept. 1928, 315, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at SAB)
FIRE ALARM BUILDING, 11th Avenue at Osler Street, 1928 (Morning Leader [Regina], 12 Oct. 1928, 14, t.c.)
RAE STREET, at 20th Avenue, residence for Col. Adam P. Linton, 1929 (Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 86-87, illus.)
ANGUS STREET, near 21st Avenue, residence for William R. McConnell, 1929; still standing in 2023 (Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 85, illus.)
REGINA AVENUE, residence for Eustace C. Hingley, 1929 (Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 87)
LEOPOLD CRESCENT, residence for Harry Crabtree, 1929 (Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 88, illus.)
LEOPOLD CRESCENT, residence for Andrew J. Hosie, 1929 (Early Domestic Architecture in Regina, 1982, 89, illus.)
DAVIN PUBLIC SCHOOL, College Avenue at Retallack Street, 1929 (Morning Leader [Regina], 30 Jan. 1929, 9, descrip.; C.R., xliii, 27 March 1929, 61; dwgs. at SAB)
NURSE'S RESIDENCE, at the Regina General Hospital, 14th Avenue at Toronto Street, 1929-30 (C.R., xliii, 4 Sept. 1929, 66; Leader-Post (Regina], 18 July 1930, 13, illus. & descrip.; R.A.I.C. Journal, xi, Sept. 1934, 135, illus.)
WINDHUST, SASK., public school, 1929 (dwgs. at SAB)
ALBERT STREET, ner Hill Avenue, residence for James F. Bryant, 1930 (C.H.G., vii, Nov. 1930, 40, illus.)
HERCHMER PUBLIC SCHOOL, McTavish Street at 6th Avenue, 1930 (Leader-Post [Regina], 24 July 1930, 3, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at SAB)
(with F.B. Reilly and J.H. Puntin) DOMINION PUBLIC BUILDING, Victoria Avenue at Scarth Street, 1935-36 (Leader-Post [Regina], 5 Jan. 1935, 1; 25 May 1935, 1, illus & descrip.; 17 April 1937, 3, illus.; Tim Morawetz, Art Deco Architecture Across Canada, 2017, 53, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at SAB)
REGINA COLLEGE ART GALLERY, College Avenue, 1937 (Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 19 April 1937, 3; C.R., vol. 50, 16 June 1937, 33, t.c.; dwgs. at SAB)
PINE FALLS, MAN., church, 1937 (dwgs. at SAB)
(with E.J. Gilbert) SASKATOON, SASK., Medical College at the Univ. of Saskatchewan, 1945-46 (Lethbridge Herald, 21 Dec. 1944, 5; C.R., lviii, Oct. 1945, 132)

PORTNALL & STOCK (works in Regina unless noted)

ST. WALBURG, SASK., hospital, 1946 (Canadian Hotel Review, xxiv, 15 Aug. 1946, 70)
(with Storey & Van Egmond) REGINA GENERAL HOSPITAL, major addition, 14th Avenue at Toronto Street, 1946 (C.R., lix, May 1946, 118)
ALBERT STREET, near 20th Avenue, residence for Robert J. Fyfe, 1947 (C.H.G., xxiv, Sept. 1947, 50, illus.)
(with Frank Martin) SASKATOON, SASK., Dairy & Soils Laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan, 1947 (C.R., lx, Nov. 1947, 143)
WILLSON STATIONERY STORE, Scarth Street near 11th Avenue, 1947-48 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxv, Aug. 1948, 277, illus.)
CENTRAL COLLEGIATE, Scarth Street, major addition, 1948 (C.R., lxi, Jan. 1948, 176)
YORKTON, SASK., International Harvester Co., showrooms and warehouse, 1948 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxv, Nov. 1948, 422, illus.)
SYNAGOGUE, for the Regina Hebrew Federated Community, 1949 (C.R., lxii, May 1949, 164)
INDIAN HEAD, SASK., hospital, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, February 1950, 124, t.c.)
CARROT RIVER, SASK., hospital, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, March 1950, 136)
ST. ANDREW'S UNITED CHURCH, Dewdney Avenue, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, Sept. 1950, 128)


CALGARY, ALTA., City Hall, 1907. This architect was one of nine Canadian competitors for this major commission. His plans were set aside and W.M. Dodd was declared the winner (Daily Herald [Calgary], 7 May 1907, 9, list of competitors).
REGINA, SASK., WW1 War Memorial Cenotaph, Victoria Park, 1926. Portnall was one of 51 architects and artists who submitted a design in this national competition (Morning Leader [Regina], 9 Feb. 1926, 1, full list of competitors). The winner was Robert G. Heughan of Montreal.