Gray, James Wilson

GRAY, James Wilson (1864-1922), active in Toronto, Ont. from 1885 until his death there in 1922. Gray was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 7 July 1864. He attended courses at Edinburgh University and, at the age of 21 years, he emigrated to Canada in 1885. After settling in Toronto, he trained as a draftsman under Alan MacDougall, who invited Gray to form a partnership in 1886 (see list of works under MacDougall & Gray).

When MacDougall was appointed City Engineer of Toronto in 1887, their partnership was dissolved and Gray then opened an office under his own name, and continued to operate his own office for the next 35 years. Gray was a lifelong member of Knox Church in Toronto, the largest Scottish Presbyterian congregation in Toronto, and he was the logical choice in 1891 to design the St. Andrew’s Society Monument in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. This stone cairn and memorial obelisk, nearly 40 feet in height, still stands today. When the Knox congregation decided to build a substantial new church on Spadina Avenue near Harbord Street in 1906, Gray was again a fitting choice to prepare the plans, this time in a creditable Gothic style, although the spire which Gray had planned above the north tower was never completed.

One of his most impressive institutional works in Toronto was the refined Edwardian design for St. Andrew’s College, Rosedale (1902-03), This four storey educational block, stretching nearly 200 ft. along Yonge Street, rivalled the work of other talented Toronto architects such as Darling & Pearson, and Sproatt & Rolph. Regrettably, the entire block was demolished after St. Andrew’s College decided to move to Aurora, Ont. in 1924. For his commercial work, Gray favoured the Renaissance Revival style, and his design for the five storey Tremont House Hotel on Yonge Street (1912) featured a meticulously detailed white terra cotta façade, a material which he would later experiment with in the design of other larger commercial projects.

The largest and most important architectural project carried out by Gray during his career is not, however, to be found in Ontario, but is actually located in Winnipeg, Man. There, Gray completed his design for the distinctive ten storey Confederation Life Building in 1912. The elaborate Renaissance Revival façade, clad entirely in gleaming white terra cotta, must rank as a unique landmark in western Canada, as it incorporates a gently curving façade which acknowledges the bend in Main Street near William Avenue, the busy commercial street in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. The projecting roofline of the cornice, with its deep cantilever, also gives the work a commanding appearance on the street, in contrast to the other conventional rectilinear office blocks erected in that city before WWI.

Gray died in Toronto on 28 March 1922 after an illness lasting two months (obituary Toronto Star, 28 March 1922, 24; Daily Mail & Empire [Toronto], 29 March 1922, 3; Globe [Toronto], 29 March 1922, 14; Evening Telegram [Toronto], 28 March 1922, 24; biography in Jesse Middleton, The Municipality of Toronto, 1923, vol. iii, 221). A photographic portrait of Gray appeared in The Globe [Toronto], 19 March 1922, p. 13. A stained glass window, fabricated by Robert McCausland and honouring J. Wilson Gray, Architect, was installed in the north elevation of the sanctuary interior of Knox Presbyterian Church on Spadina Avenue in Toronto in 1922 (inf. Ian Mason, Brigden, Ont.)

(works in Toronto unless noted)

Residential Works

WINCHESTER STREET, at Metcalfe Street, major alterations and additions to residence for James L. Morrison, 1891 (C.A.B., v, Nov. 1892, illus.)
JAMESON AVENUE, pair of houses for Joseph H. Ford and Alexander Hay, 1895 (C.R., vi, 13 June 1895, 2; C.A.B., x, Feb. 1897, 37)
BROADVIEW AVENUE, near Mount Stephen Street, residence for David Selway, 1896 (C.A.B., x, Feb. 1897, 37)
LEOPOLD STREET, pair of houses for A. E. Walker and H.H. G. Ardagh, 1896 (Toronto b.p. 3146, 6 April 1896)
BLOOR STREET WEST, at Manning Avenue, residence for R.P. Powell, 1897 (Toronto b.p. 85, 8 Oct. 1897)
WINCHESTER STREET, at Metcalfe Street, major alterations and additions to residence for James L. Morrison, 1891 (C.A.B., v, Nov. 1892, illus.)
JAMESON AVENUE, pair of houses for Joseph H. Ford and Alexander Hay, 1895 (C.R., vi, 13 June 1895, 2; C.A.B., x, Feb. 1897, 37)
BROADVIEW AVENUE, near Mount Stephen Street, residence for David Selway, 1896 (C.A.B., x, Feb. 1897, 37)
LEOPOLD STREET, pair of houses for A. E. Walker and H.H. G. Ardagh, 1896 (Toronto b.p. 3146, 6 April 1896)
BLOOR STREET WEST, at Manning Avenue, residence for R.P. Powell, 1897 (Toronto b.p. 85, 8 Oct. 1897)
BORDEN STREET, near College Street, pair of houses for M.A. Marshall, 1900 (Toronto b.p. 150, 27 Aug. 1900)
SPADINA ROAD, near Bernard Avenue, residence for Thaddeus I. Seburn, 1901 (C.R., xii, 3 April 1901, 3)
WITHROW AVENUE, near Broadview Avenue, residence for Dr. Thomas Butler, 1901 (Toronto b.p. 176, 11 April 1901)
ALBANY AVENUE, near Bloor Street West, pair of houses for M.A. Marshall, 1901 (Toronto b.p. 55, 14 June 1901)
TRANBY AVENUE, pair of houses for J. Webber Payne, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 26 April 1902, 4)
WOODLAWN AVENUE, near Yonge Street, residence for Hugh Ritchie, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 14 May 1902, 4)
DUNBARTON, ONT., residence for Dr. Dales, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 27 Aug. 1902, 3, t.c.)
BLOOR STREET WEST, near St. George Street, residence for Dr. J. Algernon Temple, 1902 (Toronto b.p. 235, 7 Aug. 1902)
CRESCENT ROAD, at Cluny Avenue, residence for Mr. Addison, 1903 (C.R., xiv, 10 June 1903, 8)
ROXBOROUGH STREET EAST, near Scarth Road, residence for William S. Burton, 1904 (Toronto b.p. 515, 21 May 1904)
HUNTLEY STREET, near Linden Street, residence for J. Wilson Gray, architect, 1905 (Toronto b.p. 826, 9 May 1905)
COLLEGE STREET, near Bay Street, residence for Dr. Joseph Graham, 1905 (Toronto b.p. 1384, 3 July 1905)
AVENUE ROAD, near Heath Street, residence for David C. Chambers, 1905 (Toronto b.p. 1798, 8 Aug. 1905)
DOWLING AVENUE, near King Street West, residence for James F. Peterkin, 1905 (Toronto b.p. 1788, 8 Aug. 1905)
ST. CLAIR AVENUE WEST, at Russell Hill Road, residence for Dr. Alex Graham, 1911 (Toronto b.p. 27538, 27 May 1911)
ST. ANDREW'S GARDENS, residence for Robert Doherty, 1912 (Toronto b.p. 36565, 12 Aug. 1912)
JACKMAN AVENUE, near Hurndale Avenue, residence for George Arbuckle, 1919 (blueprints City of Toronto Archives; inf. Robin T. Burgoyne, Toronto)

Commercial & Industrial Works

CONFEDERATION LIFE CHAMBERS, Victoria Street at Queen Street East, a block of stores and offices adjacent to the Confederation Life Building, 1898; addition 1907; demol. 1986 (Toronto b.p. 58, 29 March 1898; 6858, 6 April 1907; C.R., ix, 6 April 1898, 4, descrip.)
CONFEDERATION LIFE BUILDING, Yonge Street at Richmond Street East, new porch at the existing main entrance, 1897; alterations to facade and addition of ground floor shops, 1899 (C.A.B., x, July 1897, illus.; xii, Dec. 1899, 235, illus. & descrip.; C.R., ix, 21 Dec. 1898, 3)
YONGE STREET, at Isabella Street, carriage factory for Thomas A. Crow, 1905 (Toronto b.p. 187, 4 Jan. 1905)
IMPERIAL GLASS WORKS, Mutual Street near Shuter Street, 1907 (Toronto b.p. 8038, 13 June 1907)
HEINTZMAN PIANO BUILDING, Yonge Street near Queen Street East, major alterations to office block formerly owned by J.F. Brown Ltd., 1910 (Toronto b.p. 20076, 26 April 1910)
W. H. APTED PRINTING CO., Richmond Street East near Victoria Street, c. 1911 (Toronto Society of Architects Exhibit Catalogue, 1912, 141, illus.)
WINNIPEG, MAN., Confederation Life Building, Main Street near Portage Avenue, 1911-12 (Manitoba Free Press [Winnipeg], 9 Oct. 1911, 3, illus. & descrip.; Winnipeg Tribune, 9 Feb. 1912, 5, descrip.; C.R., xxvi, 26 June 1912, 58-59, illus. & descrip.; City of Winnipeg, 1980 The Year Past, 41-3, illus.; Lyle Dick 'The Architecture of Image and Domination: Winnipeg's Confederation Life Building' in the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Bulletin, xii, Sept. 1987, 3-6, illus. & descrip.)
TREMONT HOTEL, Yonge Street near Queen Street East, 1912; demol. (Toronto b.p. 32351, 18 Jan. 1912; Const., vi, March 1913, 93, illus.)
DOHERTY MANUFACTURING CO., Spadina Avenue near St. Patrick Street, warehouse (Toronto b.p. 34691, 11 June 1912)
THE STEVENSON BUILDING, Church Street at Lombard Street, 1913 (Toronto b.p. 7271, 6 Oct. 1913)

Institutional & Ecclesiastical Works

MOUNT PLEASANT CEMETERY, Scottish Memorial Cairn & Monument, 1891 (Toronto Daily Mail, 20 June 1891, 14, illus. & descrip.; Daily Expositor [Brantford], 11 July 1891, 3, illus. & descrip.)
WINNIPEG, MAN., Salvation Army Citadel, Rupert Avenue, 1901 (C.R., xi, 21 March 1900, 2; Winnipeg, 1982 The Year Past, 1983, 43-5, illus.; Early Buildings of Manitoba, 1973, 108, illus.)
ST. ANDREW'S COLLEGE, Yonge Street at Roxborough Street East, 1902; demol. (C.R., xiii, 23 July 1902, 4; Toronto Society of Architects Exhibit Catalogue, 1909, 20, list of works)
ST. PAUL'S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Bathurst Street at Barton Avenue, 1904 (Toronto b.p. 1314, 1 Oct. 1904)
DAVISVILLE AVENUE, near Yonge Street, public school, 1906 (C.R., xvi, 21 Feb. 1906, 2)
KNOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Spadina Avenue near Harbord Street, 1906-07 (Toronto b.p. 5609, 12 Oct. 1906; Const., ii, April 1909, 42-3, illus.; Toronto Society of Architects Exhibit Catalogue, 149, illus.)
PREBYTERIAN JEWISH MISSION, Elizabeth Street at Elm Street, 1911 (Toronto b.p. 30101, 2 Sept. 1911)
BRANTFORD, ONT., Sunday School for Alexandra Presbyterian Church, Colborne Street at Peel Street, 1912 (C.R., xxvi, 6 March 1912, 65)
RIVERDALE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Pape Avenue at Harcourt Street, 1920-21; altered 2003 and converted to residential lofts (Toronto b.p. 35606, 29 Nov. 1920)

COMPETITIONS

MONTREAL, QUE., Sun Life Assurance Building, 1889. There were fifteen entries received from Canada and the United States, including a bold Romanesque Revival proposal submitted by J. Wilson Gray, working in collaboration with the New York City firm of James & James. Their design was not premiated, and Robert Findlay of Montreal was named as the winner. Nearly eight years later, a perspective drawing showing the scheme by James & James, with J. Wilson Gray, was published in The Canadian Architect & Builder [Toronto], x, Sept. 1897, illus. plate.