Russell, James Simpson

RUSSELL, James Simpson (1870-1937), an important regional architect in southwestern Ontario from 1900 until after 1930. From his local office in Stratford, he obtained commissions in locations as far north as Parry Sound and Midland, eastward to Oshawa, south to Port McNichol, and throughout Perth County, Huron County, and Waterloo County. Born in Scotland on 21 May 1870, he emigrated to Canada in 1888 and lived in Napanee, Toronto and in Pennsylvania. While in Toronto, he trained with the prominent architect William R. Gregg for four years, from 1889 to 1892 (Toronto City Directory, 1889, 1025). In 1893 he was one of eight architects selected by the Presbyterian Church of Canada to prepare plans for a prototype for a Small Town Church, to be built in various locations in Ontario. His plans and perspective drawings for this model church were published in Designs for Village, Town & City Churches by the Committee on Church Architecture, 1893, pp. 16-18. A copy of this rare early Canadian pattern book is now held at the United Church Archives, Toronto.

Russell later moved to Stratford, Ont. in 1897 to take up the position as chief assistant to Harry J. Powell, a successful architect in that city. In 1901 He opened an office under his own name in Stratford, and in 1903 he was invited by Robert Thomas Orr to form a partnership there (see list of works under Orr & Russell). Their collaboration was a relatively brief one, and ended in 1906 when Russell returned to practising under his own name and he then maintained his own office for the next three decades.

He had a wide-ranging practise and produced designs for at least four Carnegie Library buildings, and more than a dozen churches, and a dozen public and separate schools throughout South and Central Ontario. His ecclesiastical works were invariably Gothic in style, with distinctive corner towers which made them a landmark in small Ontario towns such as Brussels, Owen Sound, Midland and New Hamburg. However, his details and façade treatment often lacked the refinement and attention to scholarly detail evident in the church designs by Henry Langley, or Edmund Burke, or J. Gibb Morton, all of whom set a high standard for ecclesiastical design that others were to follow.

Russell continued to practise until after 1930. He died unexpectedly from influenza at the age of 68 years on 26 November 1937 (obituary Stratford Beacon Herald, 27 Nov. 1927, 7; obit. Engineering & Contract Record [Toronto], Vol. 50, 8 Dec. 1937, 27; biog. Magazine of Industry, Perth County, 1911; inf. Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works; inf. Miss Violet Russell, Stratford, Ont.)

(works in Stratford)

CHURCH STREET, residence for Dr. J.A. Bothwell, 1901 (C.R., xii, 20 March 1901, 2, t.c.)
WELLINGTON STREET, a double house for Dr. E.H. Eidt, 1901 (C.R., xii, 14 Aug. 1901, 2)
CARNEGIE LIBRARY, St. Andrew Street, 1902-03 (M. Beckman, The Best Gift, 1984, 37, illus., and 185, list)
ONTARIO STREET, residence for W.J. McCulley, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 9 April 1902, 8)
WELLINGTON STREET, residence for Stephen J. Mallion, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 9 April 1902, 8)
GLOBE-WERNICKE CO., King Street, large factory, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 28 May 1902, 2)
unnamed street, a hotel for Alex F. McLaren, M.P., 1903 (C.R., xiii, 28 Jan. 1903, 2)
WINDSOR HOTEL, Albert Street, a large 3 storey addition to the hotel, and major improvements to existing building, 1903 (C.R., xiv, 22 April 1903, 2)
NILE STREET, residence for Mrs. Jane McEwen, 1906 (C.R., xvi, 7 Feb. 1906, 2)
BADOUR SHOES CO., Downie Street, a two storey brick retail store for John B. Badour, 1906 (C.R., xvi, 7 Feb. 1906, 2)
unnamed street, a two storey brick retail store for William Casson, 1906 (C.R., xvi, 7 Feb. 1906, 2)
RUSTON PLANING MILL, Milton Street, for Thomas M. Ruston, 1906 (C.R., xvii, 12 Sept. 1906, 2)
STRATFORD GAS CO., additions to gas plant, 1907 (C.R., xviii, 24 April 1907, 6)
LORETTO ROMAN CATHOLIC ACADEMY, Waterloo Street South, major addition, 1907-08 (London Free Press, 21 Dec. 1907, 8; C.R., xviii, 25 Dec. 1907, 20)
ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH, Erie Street at St. David Street, 1908 (C.R., xix, 19 Feb. 1908, 17; Daily Herald [Stratford], 14 Dec. 1908, 1, illus. & descrip.)
ST. ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, situated opposite the Court House, 1911 (C.R., xxv, 26 April 1911, 53; 16 Aug. 1911, 61)
AVON WARD PUBLIC SCHOOL, Caledonia Street, 1914; demol. 2015 (Stratford Daily Herald, 1 Aug. 1914, illus.)
MEMORIAL BAPTIST CHURCH, Ontario Street at Nile Street, 1915; with addition of a Sunday School building, 1922 (dwgs. and specifications at Stratford-Perth Archives)
ISOLATION HOSPITAL, John Street South, for the Stratford Hospital Trust, 1922 (C.R., xxxvi, 11 Jan. 1922, 50)
STRATFORD GENERAL HOSPITAL, John Street South, major addition, 1922 (C.R., xxxvi, 3 May 1922, 55)
PARKVIEW UNITED CHURCH & SUNDAY SCHOOL, Parkview Drive, 1925 (inf. Miss Violet Russell, Stratford)
YOUNG WOMEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION, Waterloo Street, 1926 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
(with Watt & Blackwell) NURSE’S HOME, John Street South, 1929 (Canadian Hotel Review, vii, April 1929, 34-5)
FALSTAFF PUBLIC SCHOOL, Waterloo Street North, 1929 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
MASONIC TEMPLE, Church Street at St. Andrew Street, 1930 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
OUTDOOR BANDSHELL, Lakeside Drive, c. 1930 (dwgs. at Stratford-Perth Archives)

(works elsewhere)

ALVINSTON, ONT., commercial block for W.H. McKay, 1899 (C.R., x, 19 July 1899, 2)
MIDLAND, ONT., St. Paul’s Methodist Church, King Street, 1901-02 (Looking Back: A History of St. Paul’s United Church 1875-1968, 7, illus.)
KERWOOD, ONT., a hotel for an unnamed client, 1900 (Alvinston Free Press, 30 Jan. 1900, 4)
DOWNIE, ONT., public school for S.S. No. 3, 1901 (C.R., xi, 23 Jan. 1901, 1)
GORE OF DOWNIE, ONT., Roman Catholic Separate School for S.S. No. 9, 1901 (C.R., xii, 20 March 1901, 2; 14 Aug. 1901, 2)
ST. PAUL’S, ONT., residence for James McEwen, 1901 (C.R., xii, 8 May 1901, 3)
MIDLAND, ONT., residence for A. McKee, 1901 (C.R., xii, 15 May 1901, 3, t.c.)
SEBRINGVILLE, ONT., a public school, 1901 (C.R., xii, 14 Aug. 1901, 2)
OWEN SOUND, ONT., House of Refuge, 1902-03 (C.R., xiii, 22 Oct. 1902, 2)
BARRIE, ONT., Methodist Church, 1903 (C.R., xiv, 5 Aug. 1903, 6)
MARKDALE, ONT., Grey Owen Lodge House of Refuge, Toronto Street, 1904 (Markdale Standard, 30 June 1904, 1, illus. & descrip.)
PARRY SOUND, ONT., Methodist Church, 1907, with addition of Sunday School, 1910 (C.R., xviii, 17 April 1907, 2, t.c.: xxiv, 1 June 1910, 25)
KINKORA, ONT., a Roman Catholic School, 1907-08 (C.R., xviii, 4 Dec. 1907, 18)
ELLICE TOWNSHIP, public school for S.S. No. 8, 1909-10 (C.R., xxiii, 8 Dec. 1909, 22, t.c.)
MILVERTON, ONT., Carnegie Library, 1909 (M. Beckman, The Best Gift, 1984, 131, illus., 184, list)
OWEN SOUND, ONT., Westside Methodist Church, 10th Street at 3rd Avenue West, 1910 (C.R., xxiv, 16 Feb. 1910, 24; Owen Sound Sun, 24 Jan. 1911, 1 & 5, descrip.)
McKILLOP, ONT., St. Columban Roman Catholic Church, Highway 8, Perth Line 34, near Beechwood Line, 1910-11 (J. Grummett, A History of McKillop, 1967, 43)
NEW HAMBURG, ONT., Trinity Lutheran Church, Church Street at Wilmot Street, 1910 (C.R., xxiv, 8 June 1910, 25)
OSHAWA, ONT., King Street Methodist Church, 1912-13 (Christian Guardian [Toronto], 7 May 1913, 27, illus.)
NEW HAMBURG, ONT., Carnegie Library, 1913 (M. Beckman, The Best Gift, 1984, 185, list)
BRUSSELS, ONT., Melville Presbyterian Church, Dunedin Drive at Princess Street, 1914 (Stratford Daily Herald, 1 Aug. 1914, illus.)
MILVERTON, ONT., Post Office & Federal Public Building, 1914 (Canada, Sessional Papers, 1915, Report No. 19, Report of the Chief Architect, p. 30)
BADEN MILLS, ONT., Sir Adam Beck Memorial Tower, c. 1920 (dwgs. at Stratford-Perth Archives)
MITCHELL, ONT., public school, c. 1920 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
PORT McNICHOL, ONT., public school, c. 1920 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
MILVERTON, ONT., public school, c. 1920 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
PAISLEY, ONT., public school, c. 1920 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
MOUNT CARMEL, ONT., a Roman Catholic rectory for Rev. Father Forster, c. 1925 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
LISTOWEL, ONT., residence for J.M. Schinbein, c. 1925 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)
SEEBACH’S HILL, ONT., St. John’s Lutheran Church, Huron Road, 1927 (inf. Miss Violet Russell, Stratford)
SEAFORTH, ONT., Scott Memorial Hospital, 1929 (Ontario Assoc. of Architects, Application for Membership for J.A. Russell, 21 Sept. 1931, with list of works)

Competitions

SMITH’S FALLS, ONT., Lanark County House of Industry, 1901. This competition elicited at least four entries including one from J.S. Russell, architect of Stratford (Perth Courier [Perth, Ont.], 15 March 1901, 8). The entry by Russell was passed over in favour of the winning design by G.T. Martin.
INGERSOLL, ONT., Carnegie Library, 1909. Russell was one of several architects who submitted a design for this new Library, but his ambitious plans appear to have been rejected by the Carnegie Foundation in Pittsburgh. However, his drawings for this unbuilt project have survived, and are now held in the collections of the Public Library in Ingersoll (inf. Vicki Wahl, Ingersoll Public Library, 2018). The commission for the 1909 library was awarded to another local architect Thomas W. Nagle, of Nagle & Mills, Architects.