Hounsom, Eric Wilfrid

HOUNSOM, Eric Wilfrid (1904-1974), an architect from Toronto, Ont. who was an acknowledged expert on the design of movie theatre buildings in Canada. Born in Toronto on 3 November 1904, he attended Central Technical High School in 1919-23, then moved to Detroit, Mich. where he worked for B&A Construction Ltd. on the new Detroit Free Press Building. After returning to Toronto in early 1925, he spent nearly three years as a junior draftsman in the office of Baldwin & Greene. In 1928 he moved to New York City and worked as assistant to Beverly S. King (1879-1935), a well-know architect and designer of commercial landmarks and country houses.

Upon returning to Toronto in 1929, Hounsom worked briefly for Horwood & White, for Hugh Allward, for Darling & Pearson, and in 1934 he secured a position in the office of Kaplan & Sprachman, a leading firm of theatre designers. Over the course of the next 8 years, he is reputed to have assisted with the design and construction of over 60 movie theatres for the firm across Canada, and he gained extensive experience which he put to good use after 1945 when he designed the Centre Theatre, Windsor, and his signature work, The University Theatre in Toronto, one of the largest movie palaces in the city when it opened in 1949. In 1953 Housom formed a new partnership with the young Dutch architect Jan Albarda (see list of works under Albarda & Hounsom). Their collaboration was brief, and the office closed in 1956, with Hounsom then joining the provincial Dept. of Public Works as a supervising architect. He later retired from the profession in 1969 and died in Toronto on 25 September 1974 (inf. Ontario Assoc. of Architects).

(works in Toronto unless noted)

CASTLEFIELD BAPTIST CHURCH, Castlefield Avenue near Duplex Avenue, major addition of Parish Hall, Sunday School, and bell tower, 1939 (Toronto Star, 6 March 1939, 25, illus.; R.A.I.C. Journal, xxi, April 1944, 80, illus.)
ETCHED NAME PLATES LTD., Gerrard Street East at Enderby Road, a small industrial building, 1942 (R.A.I.C. Journal, xx, Jan. 1943, 10, illus.; dwgs. at City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 410, File 1223)
EAST WINDSOR, ONT., The Centre Theatre, Wyandotte Street East at Lawrence Road, for Simon Meretsky and Paramount Theatres Inc., 1947; demol. 1986 (Windsor Star, 15 Jan. 1947, 3; C.R., lx, Feb. 1947, 148; inf. Andrew Foot, Windsor)
UNIVERSITY THEATRE, Bloor Street West opposite St. Thomas Street, for Famous Players Ltd., 1948-49; demolished 1990; facade dismantled and rebuilt in front of new condominium block (Globe & Mail [Toronto], 18 Aug. 1949, 13, illus.; Toronto Star, 29 May 1987, E 14, illus. & descrip.; 16 Nov. 2002, P 4, illus. & descrip.)

Selected essays and publications by Hounsom

1938, “Designing the Canadian Moving Picture Theatre”, in R.A.I.C. Journal, xv, Feb. 1938, 29-33, illus., and May 1938, 103-07, illus.
1944 “Romanticism and Protestant Church Architecture”, in R.A.I.C. Journal, xxi, April 1944, 79-83, illus.
1947, “An Approach to Canadian Theatre Design”, in R.A.I.C. Journal, xxiv, April 1947, 113-17, illus.
1970, “Toronto in 1810”, a hardcover book on the social and architectural appearance of the Town of York in the pre-colonial era, pub. by Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1970, 189 p., illus., with introduction by John C. Parkin, architect.