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 never received 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 public 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.

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 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 of 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", offering "gifts 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.

(works in Toronto unless noted)

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 (Toronto b.p. 3032, 4 March 1897; 115, 2 Nov. 1898; 288, 23 May 1900; 37, 7 June 1901; 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)


FIRE HALL NO. 17, Queen Street East at Herbert Avenue, 1905 (Toronto b.p. 1269, 22 June 1905)
FIRE HALL NO. 18, Cowan Avenue at Queen Street West, 1905 (C.R., xvi, 17 May 1905, 10)
HIGH LEVEL PUMPING STATION, Poplar Plains Road at Cottingham Street, 1906 (Toronto b.p. 3360, 9 April 1906)
ST. MATTHEW'S LAWN BOWLING CLUB HOUSE, Gerrard Street East near Broadview Avenue, 1906; structure relocated in Riverdale Park adjacent to Broadview Avenue, 2009 (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 near Yonge Street, 1906-07 (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 near Queen Street East, 1907 (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 LIBRARY, Queen Street West at Lisgar Street, 1908 (M. Penman, Century of Service: The Toronto Public Library 1883-1983, 16, 20-21, illus.)
HARRISON BATHS, Stephanie Street, 1908; demol. c. 1960 (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 LIBRARY, Gerrard Street East at Broadview Avenue, 1909-10 (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 (C.R., xv, 15 Feb. 1905, 12; xvii, 30 Jan. 1907, 6; 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 (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 (Toronto b.p. 24964, 30 Dec. 1910; 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, 1910-11 (Toronto b.p. 24955, 30 Dec. 1910)
RUSKIN AVENUE HYDRO SUBSTATION, 1910-11 (Toronto b.p. 24955, 30 Dec. 1910)
NELSON STREET HYDRO SUBSTATION, Nelson Street at Duncan Street, 1910-11 (Toronto b.p. 24956, 30 Dec. 1910)
FIRE HALL NO. 22, Main Street near Lyall Avenue, 1910 (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 HALL NO. 23, Howland Avenue, 1910-11 (Toronto b.p. 24953, 30 Dec. 1910)
FIRE HALL NO. 24, Balmoral Avenue, 1910-11 (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 at St. Clair Avenue West, 1910-11 (Toronto b.p. 24965, 30 Dec. 1910)
POLICE STATION NO. 3, Claremont Street, 1911-12 (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 (C.R., xxv, 18 Oct. 1911, 56)
POLICE STATION NO. 13, Markham Street at London Street, 1912-13 (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)
RICHMOND HILL, ONT., Langstaff Jail Farm, , Yonge Street, 1913 (inf. from Richmond Hill Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee)