Steele, W. Harland

STEELE, W. Harland (1900-1996), partner in the leading Toronto architectural firm of Page & Steele, was born in Stouffville, Ont. In 1900 and attended Riverdale Collegiate in Toronto. He enrolled in the School of Architecture at the Univ. of Toronto in 1921 and proved himself to be a talented and precocious delineator. His 3rd Year design for “ A Modern Church”, in a contemporary Gothic style, was published by the R.I.B.A. in London in 1924 (Royal Inst. Of British Architects, International Congress on Architectural Education Proceedings, 18 July -1 2 Aug. 1924, illus.). Steele graduated with honours in 1925, winning the R.A.I.C. Medal for design., then spent a year as an apprentice in the office of John M. Lyle. In October 1926 he was one of three students awarded a scholarship to study at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France, established by the prominent American architect Lloyd Warren in 1924 (Toronto Star Weekly, 9 Oct. 1926, 61, 70, illus.). Together with the other prize winners, Eric C. Horwood and Jack Ryrie, he completed the three month course in France, then returned to Toronto and formed a partnership with Forsey Page, who was already a well-established architect there (see list of works under Page & Steele).
Much of their early work was inspired by Georgian and classical precedents, but by the mid-1930’s they began to introduce a more progressive and modern aesthetic to their residential and commercial work, best seen in their Toronto projects such as the Park Lane Apartments (1937), the Garden Court Apartments (1939), and in the striking design for the Randolph Apartments in Sudbury, Ont. (1941-42).
In May 1950 both Page and Steele had the foresight to hire a brilliant young British architect who had just graduated from the Architectural Association in London. His name was Peter Dickinson, and he transformed the firm into one of most successful architectural offices in the postwar era in Canada. With the support and encouragement of both founding partners, their business grew rapidly, and between 1950 and January 1958 their office, led by Dickinson as chief designer, produced over 100 designs for striking modernist works proposed for sites in Toronto and throughout southern Ontario.
Steele served as President of the Ontario Assoc. of Architects in 1946-47, and was elected as President of the Royal Architectural Inst. of Canada in 1960-62. He retired from the profession after 1970 and died in Toronto on 11 October 1996 (death notice Globe & Mail [Toronto], 15 Oct. 1996, A 17; biog. in The Monetary Times (Toronto), cxv, Dec. 1947, 38; biog. and port. University of Toronto Monthly, xlvii, March 1947, 155; biog. and port. Financial Post [Toronto], 9 July 1960, 6). The firm which Steele founded is still active today, retaining the original name of the company formed in 1927.