On Thursday, May 22, Pat Menon reintroduced the Historical Society of St. Catharines to the life and work of former local architect William Bryson Allan. Allan (1838 – 1911) was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada in the 1850s. After bouncing around Quebec and Ontario for a few years, he settled in St. Catharines in 1861 and started a furniture business with his family while also dabbling in undertaking, sewing machine sales and photography. But it was apparent that Allan had a talent for architectural design.
Allan’s first known design was the Riordan Mill in 1867. In 1870, Allan married Isabella Dougan who was the daughter of a successful local builder. Now with contractors, furniture makers and an architect in the family, the Allan’s and Dougan’s formed a formitable business team. From there he did not look back. Chronologically, some of Allan’s designs include: St. Paul’s Ward School (1871), Central School on Court Street (1872), First Presbyterian Church (1872), the expansion of the family furniture factory (1875), St. James Ward School (1876), and St. Andrew’s Ward School (1883). Other designs included the Protestant Orphans’ Home, Grantham Academy / St. Catharines Collegiate, St. Thomas Ward School, Merritton Cotton Mill, the R.H. Smith Company (saw works), the Oddfellows Hall, and the Merritton Town Hall. From the late 1860s to 1900, Allan was quite prolific in St. Catharines.
Allan’s last design was Memorial Hall in Niagara-on-the-Lake which opened in 1907. Memorial Hall was the first building in Ontario designed specifically to be a historical museum. The museum celebrated its 100th anniversary just last summer.
While other local architects such as Tully, Latshaw, Dorr, Wiley and Badgley often receive more praise for establishing the architectural character of St. Catharines, it is important to remember the other architects like William Allan who added significant and memorable works of brick and mortar within our city.