Pomphrey, Thomas Canfield

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POMPHREY, Thomas Canfield (1881-1966) was born in Wishaw, Scotland and educated at Hamilton Academy. During the period of 1900-05 he was fortunate enough to attend classes at the Glasgow School of Art, a striking new building which had just been completed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This Arts & Crafts masterpiece must have had a significant impact on Pomphrey, who chose architecture as a vocation and entered the office of Alexander Cullen ( -1911), a prominent Glasgow architect. He articled under Cullen from 1900 to 1906, then emigrated to Canada in April 1906 and settled in Toronto. He worked briefly for Sproatt & Rolph (for six months), for John M. Lyle (in 1907-09), then moved to New York City where he worked in the office of Clinton & Russell (in 1909-12) while attending evening classes at the Atelier Hornbostel, a studio led by Henry Hornbostel, a leading Beaux-Arts architect in the city. Pomphrey returned to Toronto in 1912 and rejoined Lyle (in 1912-13), then entered the office of Darling & Pearson where he spent three years (in 1912-15).
In March 1915 he enlisted with the Canadian Army and served on the front line in Europe, later attaining the rank of Sergeant with the 48th Highlanders (Const., xi, March 1918, 76). While fighting during WWI he received a serious shoulder injury which severely limited the use of one arm. He taught himself how to draw with one hand, and perfected his skill as a delineator. It was his subtle, atmospheric perspective drawing submitted in competition in 1924 that likely persuaded the jury to award both him and William Ferguson the First Prize for the Toronto City Hall Cenotaph.
In late 1920 he joined the Toronto firm of Gore, Nasmith & Storrie, a professional engineering firm not normally associated with a high standard of architectural design. Pomphrey became their resident architect and in 1929 his elaborate watercolour presentation drawings for the proposed Toronto Water Filtration Plant were published (Canadian Engineer [Toronto], lvii, 9 July 1929, 151-4, illus.). This project was the most significant commission of his career, and brilliantly exploits the steeply sloping site on Queen Street East as it steps down nearly sixty feet to the shore of Lake Ontario. With its walls of Queenston limestone, the uncluttered window arches, and simple industrial glazing, the complex is the largest and the finest grouping of Art Deco buildings in Toronto. His skill as an architect and designer was again called upon just two years later with his interpretation of the Modern classical style in waterworks facilities in Ottawa (1930-31), in Calgary (1932-33), and for other filtration and pumping facilities in Windsor, Belleville and St. Thomas, Ont.
Pomphrey retired in July 1947 and returned to Scotland that same year. He died in Glasgow on 8 March 1966 (death notice Wishaw Press [Scotland], 11 March 1966, 2; inf. George B. Crawford, of Gore & Storrie Ltd.; inf. Yvonne Hillyard, Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Edinburgh; inf. Steven Mannell, Dalhousie Univ., Halifax)

(with William M. Ferguson) TORONTO, ONT., City Hall Cenotaph and War Memorial, Queen Street West at Bay Street, 1925 (R.A.I.C.Journal, ii, Jan. 1925, 4, illus. & descrip.)
OTTAWA, ONT., Ottawa Filtration Plant, Lemieux Island, adjacent to the Prince of Wales Bridge, 1929-31 (Ottawa Journal, 19 Dec. 1928, 28, descrip.; C.R., xlvi, 27 April 1932, 444, illus. in advert.)
TORONTO, ONT., St. Clair Reservoir, St. Clair Avenue West at Spadina Road, portal, 1929-31; Valve Station, 1929-31; Water Tank Tower, 1933, foundations built, but tower not completed (Steven Mannell, 'Toronto's Tower of Pure Water: A Lost Civic Vision' in Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, xxxi, No. 1, Sept. 2006, 23-34, illus.; Toronto Star, 25 May 2008, ID2, illus.)
TORONTO, ONT., Victoria Park Filtration Plant, Queen Street East at Neville Park Avenue, 1930-31; Pumping Station & Services Building, 1933-34 (C.R., xliii, 19 June 1929, 726-30, illus. & descrip., but lacking attribution; Canadian Engineer [Toronto], lvii, 9 July 1929, 151-4, illus. & descrip.; lxviii, 5 Feb. 1935, 9-12, descrip. & illus.; 17 Sept. 1935, 7-10, illus. & descrip., but lacking attribution; lxx, 9 Feb. 1937, 7-9, 12, illus. & descrip.; George Baird, 'Water Works - A Commentary', in Visual Arts Ontario, Art Views, Spring/Summer 1988, 16-17, 80-2, illus.; Steven Mannell, 'The Palace of Purfication' in Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, xxiv, No. 3, 1999, 18-26, illus.; Steven Mannell, 'From Indifferent Shell to Total Environment: The Design Evolution of Toronto's Vctoria Park Water Works 1913-1936', in Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, xxxvii, No. 2, December 2012, 53-73, illus.; Tim Morawetz, Art Deco Architecture Across Canada, 2017, 125-27, illus. & descrip.)
CALGARY, ALTA., Glenmore Generating Plant, 59th Avenue S.W., 1932-33 (Calgary Herald, 7 Jan. 1933, 17, descrip. & illus.; C.R., xlviii, 30 May 1934, 463-67, 474, illus. & descrip.; Tim Morawetz, Art Deco Architecture Across Canada, 2017, 128, illus. & descrip.)
TORONTO, ONT., John Street Pumping Station, surge tank, 1935 (inf. Steven Mannell)
TORONTO, ONT., Parkdale Pumping Station, Queen Street West at Sunnyside Avenue, designed 1938; built 1952-54; Surge Tank, designed 1940-41; built 1952-54 (inf. Steven Mannell)