Leech, Norman Austin

LEECH, Norman Austin (1880-1945), active in Vancouver, B.C. as Chief Architect for the Board of Education and designer of nearly 20 school buildings for the Board from 1910 to 1914. Born in Winburg, South Africa on 18 April 1880 he was educated at King's College, University of London where he received the Gold Medal for architecture in his final year. He lectured at the Technical Institute at Norwich, England, then returned to South Africa and practised in Johannesburg in 1902-06. Leech emigrated to Canada in 1906 and settled in Vancouver where he obtained a position as a draftsman with Thomas Hooper. It was there that he gained valuable experience, overseeing the design of nine large school buildings which Hooper had been commissioned to carry out.

In early 1910 he was chosen as School Architect to the Vancouver School Board (Vancouver Daily World, 15 Feb. 1910, 16, biog.; Canadian Engineer [Toronto], xviii, 25 Feb. 1910, 188; C.R., xxiv, 2 March 1910, 46; Northwest Architect [Portland], i, March 1910, 18) and during the next three years he designed and supervised important new school buildings in Vancouver as well as substantial additions to existing schools. Most were executed in the Edwardian style and constructed of brick in a formally composed symmetrical plan that allowed for easy expansion. Leech also carried on a private practise on the side during this period, but the Vancouver School Board did not approve of this activity, and promptly dismissed him in early 1913 (Vancouver Daily World, 18 Jan. 1913, 27). In March 1913 he was implicated in a bribery and corruption scandal involving financial kickbacks to contractors (Brantford Daily Expositor, 14 March 1913, 1). His successor at the Board was Charles L. Morgan.

Leech moved to Los Angeles, Calif. after 1920 where he continued to practise as an architect, and in 1928 he designed a spectacular 27 storey apartment tower in the moderne style, to be located on Sunset Boulevard at Harper Avenue in Los Angeles. A lengthy article on the project, with elevation, description and photographic portrait of the architect, was published in the Los Angeles Times, 7 Oct. 1928, Section Five, p. 1 & 2, but it appears that this scheme was never built. Leech later died in Los Angeles, Calif. on 31 March 1945 (death notice Los Angeles Times, 2 April 1945, Second Section, 8; biog. Province [Vancouver], 21 Oct. 1911, 19; biog. and port. Vancouver Daily World, 6 Jan. 1912, Progress & Building Edition, 39; Who's Who and Why in Western Canada, 1911, 236; Who's Who & Why in Canada, 1913, 439; biog. D. Luxton, Building the West: The Early Architects of British Columbia, 2003, 286, 509)

N.A. LEECH (works in Vancouver)

MAPLE LEAF THEATRE, Granville Street, between Robson Street and Smithe Street, 1908 (Vancouver Daily World, 28 March 1908, 17, illus. & descrip.)
MOUNT PLEASANT PUBLIC SCHOOL, West 6th Avenue at Bayswater Street, 1910-11 (C.R., xxiv, 23 Feb. 1910, 23; xxv, 12 April 1911, 54)
VANCOUVER SCHOOL BOARD OFFICE, Hamilton Street at Dunsmuir Street, 1910-11 (Vancouver Daily World, 11 March 1910, 22, t.c.; 27 Aug. 1910, Section Two, p. 2, illus.; dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
QUEEN ALEXANDRA PUBLIC SCHOOL, 9th Avenue at Clark Drive, 1910-11 (Vancouver Daily World, 13 Aug. 1910, Section Four, p. 1, illus. & descrip.; Province [Vancouver], 21 Oct. 1911, 19, illus. & descrip.)
DAWSON STREET PUBLIC SCHOOL, Burrard Street at Nelson Street, 1911 (C.R., xxvi, 14 Feb. 1911, 63)
LORD NELSON PUBLIC SCHOOL, Charles Street at Templeton Drive, 1911 (C.R., xxv, 29 March 1911, 53, t.c.; Province [Vancouver], 8 March 1911, 16; 21 Oct. 1911, 19, illus. & descrip.)
CECIL RHODES PUBLIC SCHOOL, 14th Avenue at Alder Street, 1911-12 (Vancouver Daily World, 19 Nov. 1910, 22, illus. & descrip.; Province [Vancouver], 8 March 1911, 16; 12 Oct. 1912, 23, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
LORD TENNYSON PUBLIC SCHOOL, West 10th Avenue at Cypress Street, 1911 (Vancouver Daily World, 19 Nov. 1910, 22, illus. & descrip.; C.R., xxv, 29 March 1911, 53, t.c.; Province [Vancouver], 21 Oct. 1911, 19, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
HENRY HUDSON PUBLIC SCHOOL, Cypress Street at Cornwall Street, 1911; building moved by barge to Capilano Reserve, North Vancouver in Aug. 2023 (Province [Vancouver], 21 Oct. 1911, 19, illus. & descrip.; City of Vancouver b.p. dated 29 May 1911)
BRITANNIA HIGH SCHOOL, Cotton Drive, 1911 (dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
KING EDWARD HIGH SCHOOL, West 12th Avenue near Laurel Street, major addition, 1911-12; burned 1973 and later demol. (C.R., xxv, 20 Sept. 1911, 60; Province [Vancouver], 29 June 1912, 25; 12 Oct. 1912, 23, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
LAURA SECORD PUBLIC SCHOOL (later called Sir James Douglas School), Lakewood Drive at Broadway, 1912 (C.R., xxvi, 6 March 1912, 66)
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE PUBLIC SCHOOL, 12th Avenue East at Victoria Drive, 1912 (C.R., xxvi, 14 Feb. 1912, 63; dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
GENERAL GORDON PUBLIC SCHOOL, West 6th Avenue, 1911-12 (dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
NORTH HASTINGS PUBLIC SCHOOL, Albert Street at Slocan Street, 1912 (The Sun [Vancouver], 29 Feb. 1912, 9; dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
HELMKEN PUBLIC SCHOOL, Helmken Street, 1912 (dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
BAYVIEW PUBLIC SCHOOL, West 6th Avenue, 1913 (dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)
CHINESE THEATRE, East Pender Street, 1914 (dwgs. City of Vancouver Archives)

(works elsewhere)

CHILLIWACK, B.C., High School, Yale Road, 1912 (Chilliwack Progress, 12 June 1912, 4 & 5, descrip. and t.c.)
LOS ANGELES, CALIF., "The Manor Moderne", a 27 storey apartment tower, Sunset Boulevard at Harper Avenue, 1928-29 (Los Angeles Times, 7 Oct. 1928, Section Five, p. 1 & 2, illus. & descrip.)