McCallum, Robert

McCALLUM, Robert (1851-1916), served as the City Architect of Toronto from 1903 until his forced resignation in 1913. Born in Toronto in 1851, he was educated at the Old Grammar School, and at the old Upper Canada College on King Street West, and his name first appears in Toronto City Directories in 1875 as “draftsman”. He trained as a civil engineer and held the post of Provincial Engineer for Ontario from 1881 to 1903, but it appears that he did not receive any formal education or training as an architect. In September 1903 he applied for the vacant position of City Architect when Board of Control at City Hall was considering the name of George W. Gouinlock for the post, and instead, to the surprise of the architectural community, they selected McCallum (C.R., xiv, 14 Oct. 1903, 4; C.A.B., xvi, Nov. 1903, 175).

His name is normally associated with the design of over thirty public buildings in Toronto between 1905 and 1913 including libraries, fire halls, police stations, and Ontario Hydro substations, but virtually all of these were never designed by McCallum. Instead, he delegated the work to two bright young architects who he employed as assistants in his office. These included John J. Woolnough, who joined the City Architect’s Dept. in April 1904, and George F.W. Price, who was hired in 1905. Both would later serve their own individual terms in the post of City Architect. A detailed outline of the City Architect’s Office under McCallum, with staff names and responsibilities, appeared in the Toronto Daily Star, 11 Feb. 1908, page 1.

While McCallum preoccupied himself with the day-to-day operation of his department, his talented young assistants prepared a variety of designs for new City buildings such as the Yorkville Public Library, executed in a finely proportioned Beaux-Arts style (1906-07), and the more mannered, eclectic Queen Anne Revival style of the Balmoral Avenue Firehall (1911). The care and attention given to the detailing and proportions of these buildings confirms that they are clearly from the hand of someone with architectural training, and certainly not from the hand of McCallum. He appears to have used his official title to take all the credit for these landmark buildings, but an examination of the drawings for each building reveals another story. When McCallum later applied for membership in the Ontario Association of Architects, his application was rejected by the Registration Board because he did not possess the proper qualifications and architectural experience required of its members.

McCallum, who had trained as an engineer, gained particular notoriety for his very conservative views on the introduction of reinforced concrete construction methods , and as City Architect, he frequently refused to grant permits for buildings which employed a concrete structural frame, declaring this new construction method to be flimsy, dangerous and unproven. His demands, outlined in a revealing article published in the Toronto journal called The Contract Record, xxv, 14 June 1908, 37-38, included requiring architects to over-design the building strength of the concrete by a factor of 25 percent, and required owners of new reinforced concrete buildings under construction to employ, at their own expense, a special inspector to supervise the mixing and placing of concrete and steel. By June 1911, McCallum was increasingly intransigent on the issue of relaxing standards to allow for the wider use of concrete in buildings. A lengthy article on this controversy, entitled “McCallum Sticks to His Guns” appeared in the Evening Telegram [Toronto], 6 June 1911, 17. By late 1913, however, he had resigned his position as City Architect after extensive criticism from City Council who accused him of mismanagement of his department (City of Toronto, Council Minutes, 24 November 1913). A judicial Inquiry, led by Judge Linton, leveled 12 charges against McCallum, including ".....petty graft and other irregularities", and "....delay due to piracy of plans", and offering " to officers in consideration of favours", and ".....the want of discipline and esprit de corps" in his department (Evening Mail [Halifax], 25 Nov. 1913, 8, report on the investigation).

McCallum died in Toronto on 2 August 1916 (obit. Toronto Daily News, 3 Aug. 1916, 7; Mail & Empire [Toronto], 3 Aug. 1916, 4; Telegram [Toronto], 2 Aug. 1916, 13, with photographic port. 3 Aug. 1916, 8; Toronto Star, 3 Aug. 1916, 4, with port.). He was predeceased by his son Robert J. McCallum, a young architect who was training in the office of E.J. Lennox when he died on 12 February 1893 at the age of 22 years. The City of Toronto Archives holds numerous sets of architectural drawings for many of the city-owned buildings designed by staff members working under McCallum between 1905 and 1913. An early photographic portrait of McCallum taken c. 1890 was published in the Toronto Daily Star, 21 September 1903, page 1.

R. McCALLUM (works in Toronto)

DOUGLAS BROS., Adelaide Street West near York Street, warehouse for Thomas Douglas, 1892; demol. (Toronto b.p. 994, 21 Sept. 1892)
T. EATON CO., Albert Street at Louisa Street, warehouse, 1897; addition on Albert Street, 1898; addition on Louisa Street, 1900; stables, Louisa Street, 1901; warehouse, Louisa Street, 1903; all buildings later demol. after a fire in 1976 (Toronto b.p. 3032, 4 March 1897; and b.p. 115, 2 Nov. 1898; and b.p. 288, 23 May 1900; and b.p. 37, 7 June 1901; and b.p. 839, 12 March 1903; Daily News [Toronto], 31 Jan. 1907, 4, descrip. and interview with McCallum)
BERNARD AVENUE, at Bedford Road, residence for Wilson Phillips, 1898 (Toronto b.p. 212, 17 June 1898)

R. McCALLUM (as City Architect of Toronto)

ALLAN GARDENS, a proposal for a 3 storey Assembly Hall, with 2,000 seats, designed 1905, but not built (Toronto Daily Star, 11 Feb. 1905, 1, illus. & descrip.)
KEW BEACH FIRE HALL, NO. 17, Queen Street East at Herbert Avenue, 1905; still standing in 2022 (Toronto Daily Star, 21 Feb. 1905, 1, illus. & descrip.; Toronto b.p. 1269, 22 June 1905; M. Campbell & B. Myrvold, Historical Walking Tour of Kew Beach, 1995, 12-13, illus. & descrip.)
PARKDALE FIRE HALL, NO. 18, Cowan Avenue at Queen Street West, 1905 (C.R., xvi, 17 May 1905, 10)
HOUSE OF INDUSTRY (or POORHOUSE), Elm Street at Elizabeth Street, major addition, 1905; altered 1975-83 and now called Laughlen Lodge; facade still standing (Toronto Daily Star, 19 May 1905, 2)
CITY OF TORONTO FREIGHT WAREHOUSE & SHED, Bay Street at the Lakeshore, a design prepared by J.J. Woolnough for a large shipping warehouse 400 ft. long and 80 ft wide, 1905-06; demol. (Toronto Daily Star, 16 Sept. 1905, 10, illus. & descrip.; Const., ii, Jan. 1909, 73)
HIGH LEVEL PUMPING STATION, Poplar Plains Road at Cottingham Street, 1906; and major addition of the Electrical Pump Building, 1910-11; all still standing in 2023 (City of Toronto b.p. 3360; 9 April 1906; dwgs. City of Toronto - Engineering & Const. Div.; inf. Wayne Reeves, Toronto)
ST. MATTHEW'S LAWN BOWLING CLUB HOUSE, Gerrard Street East near Broadview Avenue, 1906; clubhouse later relocated in Riverdale Park adjacent to Broadview Avenue, 2009; still standing in 2022 (Toronto Star, 22 May 2009, GT3, illus.)
ROSE AVENUE FIRE HALL, Rose Avenue at Howard Street, major addition, 1906 (C.R., xvii, 1 Aug. 1906, 4)
YORKVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY, Yorkville Avenue, west of Yonge Street, 1906-07; still standing in 2022 (inf. from Toronto Historical Board)
CITY MORGUE, Lombard Street, 1907 (Toronto b.p. 8654, 31 July 1907; J.R. Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto, 1914, vi, 12-14, illus. & descrip.)
POLICE STATION NO. 8, Pape Avenue, north of Queen Street East, opposite Blong Avenue, 1907; still standing in 2023 (Toronto b.p. 8655, 31 July 1907)
CENTRAL FIRE HALL, Adelaide Street West near York Street, 1907-08; demol. (Toronto b.p. 9779, 31 Dec. 1907)
PARKDALE PUBLIC LIBRARY, Queen Street West at Lisgar Street, 1908; still standing in 2023, and now called The Theatre Centre (M. Penman, Century of Service: The Toronto Public Library 1883-1983, 16, 20-21, illus.)
HARRISON PUBLIC BATHS, Stephanie Street, west of McCaul Street, 1907-08; demol. c. 1960 (Toronto Daily Star, 19 Jan. 1907, 5; C.R., xix, 8 Jan. 1908, 19, t.c.)
ALEXANDRA PARK, outdoor pavilion, 1908 (Toronto b.p. 13693, 30 Dec. 1908)
JOHN STREET PUMPING STATION, 1908-09; demol. 1987 (Toronto b.p. 13690, 30 Dec. 1908)
TORONTO FERRY SHED, Bay Street at the Lakeshore, 1909; demol. (Const., ii, Jan. 1909, 73)
RIVERDALE PUBLIC LIBRARY, Gerrard Street East at Broadview Avenue, 1909-10; still standing in 2022 (Toronto b.p. 18742, 30 Dec. 1909; M. Penman, Century of Service: The Toronto Public Library 1883-1983, 22, illus.)
ALLAN GARDENS, Sherbourne Street at Carlton Street, new Greenhouse Pavilion to replace structure destroyed by fire in 1902, designed 1905; built 1910; still standing in 2022 (C.R., xv, 15 Feb. 1905, 12; and xvii, 30 Jan. 1907, 6; and xxiii, 10 Nov. 1909, 39, illus. & descrip.; Toronto b.p. 18746, 30 Dec. 1909; dwgs. City of Toronto Archives, Series 544, File 19, 200555-5)
FIRE HALL NO. 19, Perth Avenue at Parkman Avenue, 1909-10; demol. c. 1963 (Toronto Daily Star, 9 Jan. 1909, 1; Toronto b.p. 17842, 21 Oct. 1909)
RIVERDALE PARK, Animal Shelter, 1910 (Toronto b.p. 23576, 3 Oct. 1910)
ISOLATION HOSPITAL, Gerrard Street East at the Don River, 1910 -11; demol. (Toronto b.p. 24951, 30 Dec. 1910; C.R., xxv, 9 Aug. 1911, 61, t.c.)
POLICE STATION NO. 10, Main Street at Swanwick Avenue, 1910-11; still standing in 2023 (Toronto b.p. 24964, 30 Dec. 1910; Globe & Mail [Toronto], 29 Jan. 2021, Section H., p. H2, illus.)
FIRE HALL NO. 22, Main Street near Lyall Avenue, 1910; still standing in 2022 (Toronto b.p. 24952, 30 Dec. 1910; C.R., xxv, 1 Feb. 1911, 35; Globe & Mail [Toronto], 29 Jan. 2021, Section H., page 2, illus.)
FIRE ALARM TELEGRAPH BUILDING, Adelaide Street West, 1910-11; demol. (Toronto b.p. 24968, 30 Dec. 1910)
MACPHERSON AVENUE HYDRO SUBSTATION, Davenport Road near MacPherson Avenue, 1910-11; still standing in 2023 (Toronto b.p. 24955, 30 Dec. 1910)
RUSKIN AVENUE HYDRO SUBSTATION, Ruskin Avenue at Edwin Avenue, 1910-11; later replaced by new substation in 1920 (Toronto b.p. 24955, 30 Dec. 1910)
NELSON STREET HYDRO SUBSTATION, Nelson Street at Duncan Street, 1910-11; still standing in 2022 (Toronto b.p. 24956, 30 Dec. 1910)
FIRE HALL NO. 23, Howland Avenue, south of Dupont Street, 1910-11; still standing in 2023 (Toronto b.p. 24953, 30 Dec. 1910)
FIRE HALL NO. 24, Balmoral Avenue, 1910-11; still standing in 2022 (L. Maitland, Queen Anne Revival Style in Canadian Architecture, 1990, 228, illus.; J. Kinsella, Historical Walking Tour of Deer Park, 1996, 28, illus.)
FIRE HALL NO. 25, Hendrick Avenue, south of St. Clair Avenue West, 1910-11; with datestone on the facade listed as 1916, which indicates that construction may have been delayed by 5 years; still standing in 2023 (Toronto b.p. 24965, 30 Dec. 1910)
POLICE STATION NO. 3, Claremont Street, north of Queen Street East, 1911-12; demol. (C.R., xxv, 2 Aug. 1911, 61, t.c.; Toronto b.p. 1566, 31 Dec. 1912)
FIRE HALL NO. 26, Greenwood Avenue at Oakvale Avenue, 1911; demol. (C.R., xxv, 18 Oct. 1911, 56)
TORONTO, ONT., Ashbridge's Bay Sewage Treatment Plant, Lakeshore Boulevard East at Leslie Street, Main Drainage Pumping Station, designed 1911; completed 1913 (dwgs. at City of Toronto - Engineering & Construction Services; inf.. Wayne Reeves, Toronto)
POLICE STATION NO. 13, Markham Street at London Street, 1912-13; still standing in 2023 (C.R., xxvi, 7 Feb. 1912, 63; Toronto b.p. 1567, 31 Dec. 1912)
BATH HOUSE, Sackville Street near David Street, 1912-13; demol. (Toronto b.p. 1570, 31 Dec. 1912)
EXHIBITION PARK, Dining Hall for the Women's Christian Temperance Union, 1912, demol. (C.R., xxvi, 7 Feb. 1912, 66; dwgs. at C.N.E. Archives)
WOODBINE PUMPING STATION, at the foot of Woodbine Avenue, near Lakeshore Boulevard East, 1914; demol. c. 1956 (dwgs. at City of Toronto - Engineering and Construction Services; inf. Wayne Reeves, Toronto)
RICHMOND HILL, ONT., Langstaff Jail Farm, Yonge Street at Langstaff Road, 1913 (inf. from Richmond Hill Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee)