GORDON, David William (1832-1893) devoted much of his career in Nanaimo, B.C. to working as a contractor and builder, but he began to style himself as an architect after 1880. Born in Camden, Kent Co. in southwestern Ontario on 27 February 1832, he moved to California in 1856 and relocated to Vancouver Island in 1862 or 1863. He began work there in a partnership with another contractor, where he built (and likely designed) several commercial and residential projects in Nanaimo, B.C. In 1874 he was advertising himself as a Contractor & Builder, offering to have "Plans and Specifications prepared at short notice" (Nanaimo Free Press, 16 May 1874, 3, advert.), which served as an indication that he was a capable of designing, and then constructing, buildings in the Nanaimo region.
His name was again recorded as a contractor as late as 1876 (British Columbia, Sessional Papers, 1876, Voters List for Nanaimo, 27), and it is likely that he continued to prepare designs for buildings erected under his supervision. Gordon also had strong political ambitions, becoming an MLA in the B.C. Legislative Assembly in 1877, and federal Member of Parliament in Ottawa in 1882, but he continued to practise as an architect even after being elected. In 1883, he was referred to as “the architect” for the Independent Order of Forester’s Hall in Nanaimo, and that same year he was paid fees of $36.50 for the preparation of plans for a major addition to the Provincial Court House in Nanaimo.
Gordon died in Nanaimo on 19 February 1893 while still serving as a Member of Parliament (obituary Nanaimo Free Press, 20 Feb. 1893, 1; Vancouver Daily World, 20 Feb. 1893, 8; obit. Daily Colonist [Victoria], 21 Feb. 1893, 1 and 4). A tribute from the Prime Minister of Canada to the political career of Gordon appeared in Daily Colonist [Victoria], 1 March 1893, 8. A biography of Gordon can be found in The Canadian Parliamentary Companion, 1891, 134-5. A short biography of Gordon, written by J.K. Nesbitt, was published in the Magazine Section of the Daily Colonist [Victoria], 22 Jan. 1956, 5. A recent biography of Gordon, with a photographic portrait and list of his early works in Nanaimo constructed after 1860, was published in Donald Luxton, Building The West: The Early Architects of British Columbia, 2003, 49 and 502.
(works in Nanaimo, B.C.)
CEDAR-CRANBERRY DISTRICT SCHOOL, 1874 (Nanaimo Free Press, 18 April 1874, 3; 22 July 1874, 3)
HARAWOOD COAL MINE, three miner's residence buildings, likely a row of three lodge buildings with sleeping units for miners, 1874 (Nanaimo Free Press, 19 Aug. 1874, 3)
ALBERT STREET, “Ardoon”, a residence for Robert Dunsmuir, Albert Street, c. 1876 (D. Luxton, Building The West, 2003, 49, illus.)
I.O.O.F. HALL, for the Independent Order of Forester’s Hall, Bastion Street at Commercial Street, located “..opposite the Old Flag Inn”, 1883; addition, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 11 Aug. 1883, 3, descrip.; 15 Aug. 1883, 2, t.c.; 26 Sept. 1888, 3)
PROVINCIAL COURT HOUSE, major addition, 1883-84; demol. (British Columbia, Sessional Papers, 1884, Public Accounts, 52)
SKINNER STREET, a residence for the Black Diamond Lodge of the Odd Fellows, 1884 (Nanaimo Free Press, 30 July 1884, 3)
FARQUHAR STREET, at Irwin Street, residence for T.D. Jones, 1884 (Nanaimo Free Press, 11 Oct. 1884, 2, t.c., and news item, p. 3)
HALIBURTON STREET, near Grace Street, residence for J. McKinley [sic], likely John McKinnon, Sr., Mine Manager of the Vancouver Coal Co., 1884-85 (Nanaimo Free Press, 15 Oct. 1884, 3)
FRONT STREET, residence for B.H. Smith, Collector of Customs, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 16 June 1888, 3)
THE ESPLANADE, residence for James Young, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 16 June 1888, 3)
ROBERTS STREET, at Victoria Road, a building for Arthur Bullock, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 14 July 1888, 2)
NICOL STREET, at Gray Street, residence for Joseph Randle, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 14 July 1888, 2)
WENTWORTH STREET, at the Bastion Street Bridge, a large two storey addition to Ralph Craig Blacksmith's Shop, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 21 July 1888, 3, descrip.)
unnamed street, residence for R. Gibson, "near the New Cemetery", 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 1 Sept. 1888, 3)
DEVERILL SQUARE, four cottages facing the Square, for B.C. Senator William J. MacDonald, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 1 Sept. 1888, 3; Victoria Daily Times, 1 Sept. 1888, 1)
FITZWILLIAM STREET, four cottages for an unnamed client, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 29 Sept. 1888, 3)
VICTORIA CRESCENT, two storey brick commercial block for Arthur Bullock, backing onto Cavan Street, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 20 Dec. 1888, 3, descrip.)
NICOL STREET, a pair of one-storey cottages for George Churchill, 1889 (Nanaimo Free Press, 21 May 1889, 2, t.c.)
COMOX, B.C., Kinghts of Pythias Hall, 1888 (Nanaimo Free Press, 17 Oct. 1888, 2, t.c.)