Wood, Col. James Madison

WOOD, Col. James Madison (1841- 1923) was a leading expert in the architectural design of theatre buildings. Born in June, 1841 and educated in New York City, he received his architectural training in Chicago. He established an office there c. 1870, and was joined by a young assistant architect Sidney Lovell in 1883. Lovell was invited to become a full partner with Wood in 1891, and the firm was renamed Wood & Lovell. During the period from 1883 until 1892 Wood was described as “..having designed and erected more large theatres, opera houses and hotels in the leading cities west of the Ohio River than any other architect (biog. of Sidney Lovell in The Bay of San Francisco: The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and its Suburban Cities, 1892, Vol. ii, 462-3).

By 1900 Wood had been called upon to design dozens of theatre buildings in the United States, and his name can be linked to more than eighty theatres there. His works include the Majestic Theatre, Boston, the Majestic Theatre in Grand Rapids, the Opera House and the Temple Theatre, both in Detroit, the Layfayette Square Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Broadway Theatre in Denver, the California Theatre and the Columbia Theatre in San Francisco, the Jefferson Theatre in Portland, Maine, the Markquam Grand Theatre in Portland, Oregon, and the New Lyric Theatre in Cincinnatti. (list of works in the London Free Press, 8 Jan. 1907, 5). In Canada, he also designed theatres in Toronto, London and Ottawa, and it is likely that other theatre works by him will be found in other Canadian cities. No information has been located on his activity after 1907. He may be the same person as "James Madison Wood" who died in Washington, D.C. on 2 October 1923 (death notice, Evening Star [Washington, D.C.], 3 Oct. 1923, 9).

A biography of Wood, with a list of theatres designed by him up to 1892, can be found in The Bay of San Francisco: The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and its Suburban Cities, 1892, 644-5. (inf. Sherry Ann Nolan, “The Theatres and Opera Houses of Col. James M. Wood, Theatrical Architect 1868-1903“, thesis publication Univ. of Texas at Austin, 1984). A detailed biography of Col. J.M. Wood has recently been posted in 2021 on the website for The Pacific Coast Architecture Database at the University of Washington in Seattle (inf. Alan Michelson, Seattle). A biography and photographic portrait of Col. James M. Wood, Architect was published in the Indianapolis Morning Star [Indianapolis, Ind.], 16 April 1907, 4, and states that he was a personal friend of Stanford White (1853-1906), the prominent architect of New York City and member of the firm of McKim, Mead & White (inf. Dr. Wendy R. Waszut-Barrett, Minneapolis)

TORONTO, ONT., Toronto Opera House, also called The Academy of Music, 25-27 Adelaide Street West near Bay Street [not to be confused with the Grand Opera House, located on the same block to the east], 1886 (Telegram [Toronto], 22 Jan. 1886, 4, descrip.; Globe [Toronto], 7 June 1886, 8, descrip.)
LONDON, ONT., Grand Opera House, Richmond Street, 1901 (C.R., xii, 10 April 1901, 4; London Free Press, 6 April 1901, 8; and 29 April 1901, 3, descrip.; and 3 May 1901, 3; and 10 Sept. 1901, 8, descrip.)
OTTAWA, ONT., rebuilding of the Russell Theatre, originally designed in 1897 by J. McElfatrick, burned April 1901 and rebuilt by J.M. Wood (C.R., xii, 10 April 1901, 4; Evening Journal [Ottawa], 13 April 1901, 15; London Free Press, 3 May 1901, 3; Gazette [Montreal], 23 May 1901, 10, descrip.)
LONDON, ONT., The King Edward Theatre, Richmond Street at Maple Street, for Ambrose Small, 1907 (London Free Press, 7 Jan. 1907, 1; and 8 Jan. 1907, 1 and 5, descrip.)