Adamson, Gordon Sinclair

ADAMSON, Gordon Sinclair (1904-1986) was an important Toronto architect who made a major contribution to the introduction and development of Canadian modernism after World War II. Born in Orangeville, Ont. on 19 May 1904 he was educated at public and high schools in that town and came to Toronto in 1924 where he enrolled at the School of Architecture at the University of Toronto. During this period, he contracted polio and he suffered the effects of this disability for the rest of his life. This affliction did not deter him, and upon graduating with honours in 1928 he was employed by F. Hilton Wilkes of Toronto and worked on the design of the Canada Permanent Building, Bay Street (1928-30) and then joined the office of Sproatt & Rolph in November 1929 where he remained until September 1930. He assisted the prominent landscape architect Edwin Kay of Toronto from June of 1932 until October 1933 and then moved to Montreal where he supervised the construction of multiple-unit housing projects for the Shell Oil Co .

Adamson commenced his own practise in Toronto in July, 1934 and concentrated on the design of residential and commercial buildings usually executed in a conservative but nevertheless refined Neo-Georgian style. His design for the Dominion Public Building for the federal government in Bradford, Ont. (1936) is an exemplary work in this mode which rivals (and may have been influenced by) the work of John Lyle. By the early 1940's, however, traces of the International Style of modernism began to appear in his work as he experimented with the application of this new aesthetic in plans for the 'Sun House', the residence of Clare Wood, Dale Avenue, Toronto (1944). This break with the more traditional styles of the past was all but confirmed in 1945 when he completed a sweeping and graceful office and showroom facility for the Crothers Manufacturing Co. on Millwood Road in Leaside, Toronto, and he later received the commission to prepare a striking design for the office and factory in Peterborough, Ont. for the Canadian Nashua Paper Co. in 1946.

In the company of other young talented architects who had emerged in Toronto at this time, including John B. Parkin, Robert S. Morris, and Earle Morgan (the latter with whom he had a brief partnership from 1943 to 1945), the Adamson office grew and by the mid-1950's it had become one of the dominant forces in the development of a distinctive Canadian interpretation of modern architecture. Adamson was elected as an Associate Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1950, and became president of the Ontario Association of Architects in 1953. It was in that year that he received his first Massey Medal from the Governor General for his design of an apartment building on Forest Hill Road at Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxx, January 1953, 16-17, illus.). He retired from active practice in March 1971 and died in Toronto on 8 January 1986 (death notice in Toronto Star, 9 Jan. 1986, G8; biography & port. in Financial Post [Toronto], 7 Feb. 1953, 6; Canadian Who's Who, 1961-63, 4; National Reference Book, xii, 1959-60, 1157-59, with list of works; E. McMann, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts-Exhibitions and Members, 1981, 4).


(works in Toronto)

DEWSON STREET, residence for Beverly Puddy, 1935 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xiii, Jan. 1936, 14, illus.)
BAYVIEW AVENUE, near Sunnybrook Park, 'Divadale', the residence for Capt. James W. Flanagan, 1937 (C.H.G., xvi, Jan.-Feb. 1939, 17-20, illus.)
PARK LANE, NORTH YORK, residence of Harold W. Vanstone, 1937 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xvi, Sept. 1939, 206-07, illus.)
LYTTON BOULEVARD, residence of Dr. Holly Halderson, 1937 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xiv, Sept. 1937, 187, illus.)
GLENCAIRN AVENUE, residence of Arthur Sutherland, 1938 (C.H.G., xv, June 1938, 39, illus.)
THORNHILL, ONT., residence of Mrs. Robert H. Pringle, North Bayview Avenue,1938 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xvi, May 1939, 110, illus.)
KIMBARK BOULEVARD, residence of H. Elmer Cavell, 1939 (C.H.G., xviii, Jan-Feb 1941, 24-5, illus.)
QUEEN MARY'S DRIVE, at Prince Edward Drive, The Kingsway, residence for Dr. R. Lawrence Twible, 1938-39 (Toronto Star, 16 Dec. 1938, 41; C.H.G., xviii, Jan-Feb 1941, 22-3, illus.)
CENTRAL ONTARIO TRANSPORT LTD., office and factory, Lisgar Street, 1941 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xix, October 1942, 207, illus.)
DALE AVENUE, 'Sun House', residence for Clare F. Wood, 1944 (C.H.G., xxi, Nov. 1944, 16-24, illus. & descrip.; Globe & Mail [Toronto], 23 Feb. 2018, H 11, illus. & descrip.)
GEORGE W. CROTHERS LTD., Millwood Road, Leaside, office and showroom, 1945 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxi, Feb. 1944, 38, illus.; xxiii, Aug. 1946, 194-97, illus.)


LEASIDE MEMORIAL GARDENS, Millwood Road, 1945 (C.R., lvii, 20 Dec. 1944, 25)
J.R. SHORT MILLING CO., mill and warehouse, Wicksteed Avenue, 1945 (Financial Post [Toronto], 3 March 1945, 9; C.R., lviii, August 1945, 154)
HONEY DEW RESTAURANT, Yonge Street near King Street West, 1945 (Canadian Hotel Review, xxiii, 15 Dec. 1945, 15, illus.)
CHELTENHAM CRESCENT, North York, residence for James F. Crothers, 1945 (C.H.G., xxiv, May 1947, 26, illus.)
NOXEMA CHEMICAL CO., Park Lawn Road, Etobicoke, office and factory, 1946 (dwgs. at OA, Dept. of Labour Coll.)


LYTTON BOULEVARD, residence for Dr. W. Keith Welsh, 1945 (C.H.G., xxii, Nov. 1945, 36-37, illus.)
INGRAM & BELL LTD., McCaul Street, office and factory, 1944-45 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxii, March 1945, 51-53, illus.)
CORTLEIGH BOULEVARD, North York, residence for Victor S. Murray, 1945-46 (C.H.G., xxiii, June 1946, 23, illus.)
CHELTENHAM AVENUE, North York, residence for Hugh Curry, 1946 (C.H.G., xxiii, Nov. 1946, 37, illus.)
LEASIDE PUBLIC LIBRARY, Bayview Avenue, 1946 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, Feb. 1947, 50-51, illus. & descrip.)
TIDEWATER OIL CO., Weston Road, office and plant, 1947-48 (C.R., lx, Oct. 1947, 189-90)
BLAIR LAING ART GALLERY, Bloor Street West, 1949-50 (C.R., lxii, Oct. 1949, 146)
TEDDINGTON PARK AVENUE, residence for Morris Shortt, 1950 (Toronto b.p. 8120, 2 June 1950)
PARK LANE, NORTH YORK, residence for Ben Sadowski, 1950 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvii, Dec. 1950, 409, illus.)

(works outside Toronto)

ORANGEVILLE, ONT., residence for J. Russell Morrow, 1935 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xiii, Jan. 1936, 15, illus.)
BRADFORD, ONT., Dominion Public Building, 1936 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xiii, Nov. 1936, 211-12, illus. & descrip.)
ORANGEVILLE, ONT., residence for T.S. Parkinson, 1936 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xiv, Feb. 1937, 24)
PETERBOROUGH, ONT., Canadian Nashua Paper Co., office and factory, Braidwood Avenue, 1946 (R.A.I.C. Journal, Nov. 1948, 410-11, illus.)
WINNIPEG, MAN., store and office for Ingram & Bell Ltd., 1947 (C.R., lx, Aug. 1947, 262)
BARRIE, ONT., office and factory for Lufkin Rule Co., Innisfil Street, 1949 (C.R., lxii, March 1949, 140)
ALLISTON, ONT., High School, 1949 (C.R., lxii, June 1949, 112)
OSHAWA, ONT., Northminster United Church, Rossland Street at Simcoe Street, 1950 (C.R., lxiii, Feb. 1950, 126)
MOUNT DENNIS, ONT. [in West Toronto], Bank of Nova Scotia, near Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue West, 1950 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvii, Oct. 1950, 340, illus.)


TORONTO, ONT., Toronto City Hall, 1958. The Toronto firm of Gordon S. Adamson & Associates were one of nearly 100 Canadian entrants in this international competition. The modernist design submitted by this firm was not among the finalists, but their proposal has recently been published in G.T. Kapelos, Competing Modernisms: Toronto's New City Hall and Square, 2015, 68, illus. The competition was won by Viljo Revell from Finland.