Baker, Francis Spence

BAKER, Francis Spence (1867-1926), a leading architect of the Edwardian era in Toronto, and a highly respected spokesman and advocate for the architectural profession both in Canada and in Great Britain. He was active in the following offices in Toronto:

Siddall & Baker, Toronto, 1893 to 1895
Curry & Baker, Toronto, 1895 to 1 April 1898
F.S. Baker, Toronto, April 1898 to May 1899
Gouinlock & Baker, Toronto, June 1899 to May 1902
F.S. Baker, Toronto, June 1902 to 1923

Born in the village of Kilbride, Halton County, near Hamilton, Ont., he attended public school and the Collegiate Institute in Hamilton. At the age of 17 years he became a indentured pupil in the Toronto office of Kennedy, Gaviller & Holland, and trained with them from September 1884 to December 1888. He then moved to New York City in February 1889 to work in the office of J. Cleveland Cady until October 1889, and returned to Toronto to join Knox & Elliot as an assistant from November 1889 to March 1891. Baker went to London, England in March 1891 to join the office of Thomas E. Colcutt, a prominent architect of the Edwardian period in London, and assisted him with preparation of plans for the immense Imperial Institute in South Kensington, London (built 1887-93). While there, he successfully applied to become an Associate of the Royal Inst. of British Architects in 1892, and in 1901 he was nominated as a Fellow of the R.I.B.A. in London. He was reputed to be the first Canadian-born architect to be elected as a Fellow of that Institute, and for this accomplishment he was appointed Honorary Secretary of the R.I.B.A. for Canada, representing that organization in all the activities of the profession in this country. He held that post from 1906 to 1925.

In 1892 he was invited to form a partnership with John W. Siddall (see works under Siddall & Baker), but their collaboration lasted only three years before Baker joined in a new partnership with Samuel G. Curry (see works under Curry & Baker). This too was relatively brief, and Baker opened his own office in April 1898. Less than two years later, he had joined in yet another partnership, this time with George W. Gouinlock (see works under Gouinlock & Baker). Predictably, their office was dissolved less than two years later, and Baker then worked on his own for the next twenty years. In 1910, at the peak of his career, Baker was the subject of a lengthy (and rare) biographical article devoted to his work from 1892 to 1910. Entitled “The Work of F.S. Baker”, and published in the Toronto journal Construction, Vol. iv, January 1910, 48-71, it contained illustrations and descriptions of his major commercial, ecclesiastical and residential projects, including many of his refined Edwardian designs for branches of The Trader’s Bank in Toronto, Sudbury, Tillsonburg, Winnipeg and in other locations.

Baker was a proponent of the English Renaissance style which he greatly admired, and he rarely wavered from this formulae when applying it to his designs for banks and commercial office buildings. He employed his scholarly knowledge of historical precedent to create impressive works such as the 6 storey Trader’s Bank Building, Yonge St. at Bloor Street (1906-07; demol. c. 1965), the Graphic Arts Building (1911-12), and to his last important work, the General Accident Assurance Office Building, Bay Street (1922). The street facades of these works are boldly scaled, with exquisite detailing executed in cut stone and brick, and carefully composed using a formal symmetry which enhanced the monumental quality of these Toronto landmarks.

Baker was also an erudite and perceptive critic of contemporary architecture in Canada, and he wrote extensively on the subject. In January 1913 he was invited to London by the R.I.B.A. where he delivered his paper on “Canadian Architecture”. His illustrated commentary and analysis was reproduced in full in The Builder [London], civ, 24 Jan. 1913, 103-107, and in The Building News [London], civ, 24 Jan. 1913, 118-20, and in The Architects' & Builders' Journal [London], xxxvii, 29 Jan. 1913, 115-16, and 5 Feb. 1913, 138-39. This included observations of the Canadian scene by audience members such as Thomas Mawson and Sir Herbert Baker. An even longer version of this illustrated speech, with discussion and debate, was published in the R.I.B.A. Journal [London], xx, 25 Jan. 1913, 165-85. Three years later, his illustrated essay entitled “Domestic Architecture in Canada” was published in Britain in The Studio Year Book of Decorative Art [London], 1916, p. 85-88.

Baker retired from the profession in September 1925 and died at Ogdensburg, N.Y. on 3 January 1926 while returning to Toronto from a winter trip to Florida (obituary The Globe [Toronto], 4 January 1926, 9; Daily Mail & Empire [Toronto], 4 Jan. 1926, 4; Toronto Star, 4 Jan. 1926, 23; obit. and portrait in the R.A.I.C. Journal [Toronto], iii, Jan-Feb. 1926, 31; Construction [Toronto], xix, Jan. 1926, 23; obit. R.I.B.A Journal [London], xxxiii, 6 Feb. 1926, 231 & 236; biog. A. Fraser, History of Ontario, 1907, Vol. ii, 704-06; The Canadian Who’s Who., 1910, 9; biog. in H. Morgan, Canadian Men & Women of the Time, 1912, 52; biog. R.I.B.A., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, 2001, Vol. i, 93). An early photographic portrait of Baker, taken in 1900, was published in The Canadian Architect & Builder [Toronto], xiv, Feb. 1901, 32.

(works in Toronto unless noted)


A. BRADSHAW & SON, Wellington Street West near Bay Street, warehouse, 1904; demol. (Toronto b.p. 649, 11 June 1904; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 55, illus.)
TORONTO JUNCTION, factory for Nordheimer Piano Co., Hook Avenue, 1905 (C.R., xvi, 22 Nov. 1905, 1, t.c.; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 58, illus.)
(with Carrere & Hastings) TRADER'S BANK OF CANADA, Yonge Street at Colborne Street, Head Office Building, 1905-06 (Evening Record [Windsor], 5 Sept. 1905, 1, descrip.; 4 Dec. 1905, 8, illus. & descrip.; C.A.B., xviii, Nov. 1905, 165 & illus.; xx, June 1907, 91-3, illus.; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 48, 50, illus.)
SELKIRK, MAN., Trader's Bank, 1906 (C.R., xvii, 11 July 1906, 2, t.c.)
KITCHENER, ONT., Kaiserhof Hotel, King Street, 1906-07 (C.R., xvii, 21 Nov. 1906, 2; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 54, illus.)
TRADER'S BANK, Bloor Street East at Yonge Street, 1906-07; demol. c. 1965 (Const., i, Nov. 1907, 45, illus. & descrip.; iii, Jan. 1910, 51-3, illus.; Builder [London], xcviii, 12 March 1910, illus.)
CENTRE AVENUE, at Edward Street, store and residence for Francesco Nicoletti, 1906 (Toronto b.p. 3123, 17 March 1906)
G.W. HUYLER CO., Yonge Street near Temperance Street, store and factory, 1906 (C.R., xvi, 28 Feb. 1906, 6; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 55, illus.)
WINNIPEG, MAN., Trader's Bank, Main Street near McDermot Avenue, 1907 (C.R., xviii, 8 May 1907, 6; Manitoba Free Press [Winnipeg], Building Progress Number, 21 Nov. 1907, 18, illus. & descrip.; Western Architect [Minneapolis], xi, May 1908, illus.; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 58, illus.)
TRADER'S BANK, Avenue Road at Davenport Road, c. 1907 (inf. from Royal Bank Archives, Montreal)
SUDBURY, ONT., Trader's Bank, Durham Street South at Cedar Street, 1908 (C.R., xxii, 3 June 1908, 26; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 56-7, illus.)
TILLSONBURG, ONT., Trader's Bank, Broadway, 1908 (C.R., xxii, 1 July 1908, 27, t.c.; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 56-7, illus.)
TRADER'S BANK, King Street West at Spadina Avenue, 1909 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 54, illus.)
GRAPHIC ARTS BUILDING, Richmond Street West at Sheppard Street, for the Toronto Saturday Night Pub. Co., 1911-12 (C.R., xxv, 22 Nov. 1911, 61; Const., vi, June 1913, 213-21, illus. & descrip.)
ROYAL BANK, College Street at Bathurst Street, 1914 (Toronto b.p. 13533, 25 July 1914; dwgs. at Royal Bank Premises Div., Montreal)
MARTIN CORRUGATED PAPER CO., Pape Avenue near Gerrard Street East, factory, 1915; demol. (Const., ix, Feb. 1916, 64)
ROYAL BANK, Yonge Street at Grenville Street, 1917 (Const., xi, April 1918, 105-06, illus.)
ROYAL BANK, Dundas Street West at Chestnut Street, 1918; altered 1988 (Toronto b.p. 19580, 14 Nov. 1918)
BROUSE, MITCHELL & CO., Bay Street near Wellington Street West, office building, 1921-22; demol. (C.R., xxxv, 26 Oct. 1921, 941, illus. & descrip.)
GENERAL ACCIDENT ASSURANCE CO., Bay Street at Temperance Street, office building, 1922; renovated and restored 2019-20 (Const., xv, Sept. 1922, 280-2, illus.; xvi, July 1923, 237-42, illus. & descrip.; Globe & Mail [Toronto], 7 Feb. 2020, p. H 4 & H 5, illus. & descrip.)


MAY STREET, Rosedale, for Emil A. Kantel, 1898 (Toronto b.p. 250, 21 July 1898)
BLOOR STREET WEST, at Huron Street, for Dr. Andrew R. Gordon, 1898 (C.A.B., xi, Sept. 1898, illus.; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 70-1, illus.)
ADMIRAL ROAD, near Lowther Avenue, for Thomas H. Hall, 1898 (Toronto b.p. 211, 17 June 1898)
MAPLE AVENUE, near Sherbourne Street North, for William P. Gundy, 1899 (Toronto b.p. 282, 6 April 1899; C.A.B., xiv, Sept. 1901, illus.)
SPADINA ROAD, near Bloor Street West, for George A. Case, 1903 (Toronto b.p. 1615, 29 Aug. 1903)
WALMER ROAD, near Bernard Avenue, for Albert Maas, 1906-07 (Const., iii, July 1910, 76, illus.)
ROXBOROUGH STREET EAST, for John K. Brodie, 1906 (C.R., xvi, 28 Feb. 1906, 7)
BINSCARTH ROAD, near Glen Road, for Emil A. Kantel, 1906 (Toronto b.p. 5918, 14 Nov. 1906; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 68-9, illus.)
RUSSELL HILL DRIVE, for John M. Henderson, 1906 (C.R., xvii, 4 April 1906, 7; Const., iii, July 1910, 72-3, illus.)
CHESTNUT PARK ROAD, at Cluny Avenue, for Henry J. Wright, 1907 (Toronto b.p. 9238, 2 Oct. 1907; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 60-1, illus.)
BALMORAL AVENUE, residence for the architect, 1908 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 68-9, illus.)
LONDON, ONT., for Thomas Baker, Talbot Street, c. 1908 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 66-7, illus.)
POPLAR PLAINS ROAD, at Russell Hill Road, pair of houses for A. Deane Parker and Michael Chapman, 1909 (Const., iii, July 1910, 74-5, illus.)
OAKVILLE, ONT., 'Grenvilla Lodge', for William H. Brouse, c. 1909 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 61-2, illus.)
ADMIRAL ROAD, at Bernard Avenue, for Norman Hillary, 1909 (Toronto b.p. 14502, 1 April 1909; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 63-4, illus.)
ALBERTUS AVENUE, near Yonge Street, for Fred Grundy, 1909 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 70-1, illus.)
ROXBOROUGH STREET EAST, at Yonge Street, for Dr. B.L. Riordan, 1909 (Toronto b.p. 17401, 24 Sept. 1909; Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 59, illus.)
SOUTH DRIVE, for William E. Bigwood, 1909 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 65, 67, illus.)
CHESTNUT PARK ROAD, for John O. Donough, 1910 (Toronto b.p. 19798, 14 April 1910; Const., v, April 1912, 64, illus.)
RUSSELL HILL DRIVE, near St. Clair Avenue West, for Thomas R. Boys, 1911 (Const., iv, Nov. 1911, 81-3, illus. & descrip.)
WHITNEY AVENUE, near Glen Road, for A. Featherston Aylesworth, 1911 (Toronto b.p. 26255, 10 April 1911)
FOREST HILL ROAD, at Heath Street West, for William Caldwell, 1912 (Toronto b.p. 32420, 2 Feb. 1912)
RUSSELL HILL ROAD, near Clarendon Avenue, for Frank H. Russell, 1912 (Toronto b.p. 32635, 24 Feb. 1912)
WARREN ROAD, at Lonsdale Road, for Henry Winnett, 1913 (Toronto b.p. 4269, 16 May 1913; Const., ix, May 1916, 169, illus.)
ST. GEORGE STREET, opposite Sussex Avenue, extensive alterations for William R. Riddell, c. 1918; demol. (Const., xii, June 1919, 181, 184, illus.)


GLEN WILLIAMS, ONT., St. Alban's Anglican Church, 1902-03 (Const., iii, Jan. 1910, 63-4, illus.)
BARRIE, ONT., addition to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Ross Street, 1910 (C.R., xxiv, 13 April 1910, 26, t.c.)
HOMER, ONT. St. George's Anglican Church, 1913; demol. 1961 (Rev. Duncan Lyon, St. George's Homer 1792-1992, 6; inf. Dennis Gannon, St. Catharines)


MONTREAL, QUE., Sir John A. MacDonald Statue, 1893. Baker was among dozens of architects who submitted a design for the plinth and base of this monument (C.A.B., vi, March 1893, 41). His entry was not premiated.
ONTARIO, A Country Railway Station, 1895. Baker may have prepared his Richardsonian Romanesque design as part of competition sponsored by the Canadian Architect & Builder magazine. An illustration of his proposal appeared in C.A.B., viii, Oct. 1895, plate illus. It is unclear who won the competition.