Ross & Macdonald fonds

Ross & Macdonald fonds

Part of


  • Ross & Macdonald (archive creator)


Ross & Macdonald fonds

Dates of creation



  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • 27 893 drawings (24 303 originals and 3 590 reproductions)
  • 236 photographs
  • 18.6 metres of textual documents

Scope and Content

The Ross & Macdonald fonds is concerned with the documents of six successive architectural firms: Ross & MacFarlane; Ross & Macdonald; Ross & Ross; Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Heughan; Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Fish; and Ross, Fish, Duschenes & Barrett. These documents range in date from 1902-1982, with the bulk of the material dating from 1909-1959. As a whole, the documents are a good representation of a wide range of 20th-century building types, however, of the approximately 2 000 projects undertaken by the six firms over 54 years, the fonds only holds drawings and/or textual information on just over 600. A more complete picture can be gained through an examination of the drawing record cards. Compiled by the architects, these cards were indexed in numerical order by job number beginning in the early 1920s.

The fonds contains projects in every Canadian province. The greatest concentration of work was produced in Montréal where each of the firms maintained their head office, but there were also a large number of works executed in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, especially after 1948 when a second office was opened in Saint John by Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Heughan.

The first project, a country house designed by George Allan Ross (1878-1946) in 1902-03 for his father, is the only work executed outside an official office. Ross formed a partnership with David Huron MacFarlane (1876-1950) in 1905, but the firm's earliest work in the fonds dates from 1907 with the design of Roslyn School in Westmount. Important buildings by Ross & MacFarlane which are fairly well represented in the fonds include the Château Laurier Hotel and the adjacent Union Station in Ottawa (1909-12), the Fort Garry Hotel (1910-14) in Winnipeg, and several buildings for the YMCA in Montréal (1909-13).

In sum, the fonds holds material for 27 projects by Ross & MacFarlane. Much of the firm's work is missing (see Appendix 1) and there are only a few drawings for several interesting buildings such as the Transportation Building (1909-12, Carrère & Hastings head architects), Saint Matthias' Church (1909-11) in Westmount, and the Gayety Theatre (1911-12), Montréal). There are many fine ink on linen drawings by the firm, but little in the way of textual documents or photographs.

When MacFarlane left the partnership at the end of 1912, his place was taken in January 1913 by the firm's senior draftsman, Robert Henry Macdonald (1875-1942). A number of large works initiated by Ross & MacFarlane were completed by the new firm of Ross & Macdonald, including the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton (1912-15) and the Central Technical School in Toronto (1912-16).

In the early years of World War I, the new firm's largest commissions were being designed for Toronto - the 20-storey Royal Bank Building (1913-15), and Toronto Union Station (1914-21) in association with John Lyle and Hugh Jones. An important project at the close of the War years was the rebuilding of Halifax after the devastating explosion of December 1917. While the office was responsible for a housing development of about 700-800 units, the fonds has no documents concerning these designs (see Appendix 2).

The 1920s were Ross & Macdonald's most productive years, during which the firm grew to be one of the largest and most successful in Montréal, if not all of Canada. Many of their important works were executed in Montréal, including the Mount Royal Hotel (1920-24); office buildings such as the Keefer Building (1922-23), Confederation Building (1924-27), Castle Building (1924-27), Hermes Building (1926-27), Star Building (1926-31), Dominion Square Building (1928-30), and the Architect's Building (1929-30); commercial buildings such as Eaton's Department Store (1925); churches and hospitals such as Trinity Memorial Church (1922-26), and the Homeopathic Hospital (1925-27); apartment buildings such as the Rosemount Apartments (1921-22), Château Apartments (1924-26), Park Manor Apartments (1924-25), and the Gleneagles Apartments (1928-30). During this period the firm also designed numerous industrial buildings and carried out important alterations and additions to commercial, educational and religious buildings in the city.

Outside of Montréal, Ross & Macdonald's major works during the 1920s included the Admiral Beatty Hotel in Saint John, N.B. (1920-24); Three Rivers Train Station (1924); Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina (1926-27); Royal York Hotel in Toronto (1927-29); Eaton's stores in Toronto (1927-28), Calgary (1927-28), and Saskatoon (1928-29); and the Price House Tower in Québec City (1928-30).

As the depression set in and architectural commissions became scarce during the 1930s, Ross & Macdonald's much-reduced office still managed to complete a number of large projects. These included Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto (1931); the Montréal Neurological Institute (1931-34); the Royal Canadian Hussars Armoury in Montréal (1933-35); Housing developments in the Town of Mount Royal (1935-36); and the Holt-Renfrew Store in Montréal (1936-37). During the early years of World War II, the firm designed the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa (1940-41), but it is at this point that the larger contracts begin to come from military concerns - the Seaplane Overhaul Hangar complex built in Dart- mouth, N.S. (1940-41), and the Naval Training Station in Halifax (1940-44), both for the Canadian government, and a Cartridge Plant in Toronto (1940-41) for the Anaconda American Brass Co.

The majority of the graphic documents in the fonds relating to the office of Ross & Macdonald are original drawings, many of which are ink on linen. The comparatively fewer reproductions are mostly of survey drawings. Most of the firm's important projects in the fonds are well represented in terms of the completeness of drawings, with the notable exceptions of the Toronto and Montréal Eaton's Stores, the Admiral Beatty Hotel, and the Castle Building. The drawings for these projects went to the owners. There are 246 projects involving Ross & Macdonald, 38 of which include photographs. Textual documents, primarily in the form of specifications and shop drawing lists, begin to appear with some consistency with the work of the early 1920s and continue through the bulk of the fonds to the last projects of 1959. This is the same situation with the drawing index cards as well.

When Macdonald died in December 1942, Ross continued to use the respected and well-known name of Ross & Macdonald under the guise of a financial company founded in 1921, Ross & Macdonald, Inc. Macdonald's son Roddick was listed as a partner, although he did not possess an architectural degree. When the A.A.P.Q. disallowed Ross to employ the former name of the firm, his son John Kenneth Ross (1915-1978) became a partner in 1944, and so the office of Ross & Ross was established.

In existence for about two years the office executed primarily industrial buildings for companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Simmons Ltd., White Motor Co., and Saint Lawrence Alloys and Metals. The fonds contains 32 projects with drawings by Ross & Ross, textual documents consisting mostly of specifications and shop drawing lists, and photographic material for 11 projects the firm worked on. Much of Ross & Ross' work overlapped that of the previous and later offices.

After the death of George Allen Ross in January 1946, a new office was soon formed consisting of John Kenneth Ross, Hugh Patterson (1894-1980) (formerly the head draughtsman), Gilbert Townsend (1880-1963) and Robert Heughan (1887-1950), the latter three men being long-time members of the firm. The principle projects by Ross, Patterson, Townsend and Heughan include numerous buildings for the Bell Telephone Co. in Québec and Ontario, buildings for International Harvester in Montréal, Québec City and Saint John, and government commissions for hospitals and office buildings in the Maritimes (where the firm opened a second office in 1948), as well as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics Building in Ottawa. There are 81 projects by the firm in the fonds, 15 of which are documented with photographs. It is during this period that the ratio of reproductions to original drawings increases significantly, and graphite on paper becomes the norm instead of ink on linen. In the textual documents, engineering briefs now appear quite frequently.

Robert Heughan died in 1950 and John Fish (1903-1978) replaced him as a partner. While the contracts for Bell Telephone buildings continued, Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Fish also executed numerous office/industrial projects for companies such as Imperial Oil in Halifax (1951-54), North American Cyanamid in Montréal (1951-52), and Gillette Razor Co. in Montréal (1953-56). Other important works include the Royal York Hotel Addition (1956-59), National Film Board Building in Montréal (1951-56), and the Campbellton Mental Hospital in New Brunswick (1952-56). Also, it was during this period that the firm was commissioned for numerous military buildings by the RCAF and RCN - power plants, aircraft hangars, and office command buildings. Many of these documents are in the form of reproductions as the originals were kept by the Defence Department. Despite the fact that there were many housing projects throughout the history of the firms going back to Ross & MacFarlane, architectural drawings for individual houses are rare in the fonds until the 1950s. There are 219 projects for Ross, Patterson, Townsend & Fish, with 25 photographs of various works. As for textual documents, more office papers are now included such as memos, notes, contracts and account records.

At the end of 1958 Townsend and Patterson stepped down to become consultants, and Rolf Duschenes (1918- ) and John Barrett (1912- ) filled in as partners. The major buildings by Ross, Fish, Duschenes & Barrett during their first year were the Overhaul and Maintenance Base at Dorval, and the Credit Foncier Office Building in Montréal. Unfortunately there is little material in the fonds for these two projects except for photographs. For the firm of Ross, Fish, Duschenes & Barrett, the fonds has 58 projects to the end of 1959. There is also miscellaneous material on various works up to 1970.

Quantities of original drawings, reproductions, photographs, and/or textual documents are listed for each project. Drawing index cards are also noted if they are available.

Drawing descriptions list the quantity and type of drawings, the medium and supports, the type of reproductions, and the general content of the graphic material.

Photograph descriptions consist of the quantity of photographs, negatives, or slides, the type (b/w or colour), the image size in centimetres, the content and the name of the photographer or studio, if known.

Textual document descriptions list the quantity per folder, and the type of documents (specifications, shop drawing lists, correspondence, etc.)

Architect names are taken from the drawings first, and sometimes from the textual documents regardless of dates. Some projects consist of drawings by two or more firms, in which case all names have been listed.

Client names are taken from the documents and occasionally standardized for consistency.

Reference Number



For the most part, the arrangement of the Inventory follows the numerical order of the job numbers assigned to each project by the architects. As the work of one firm tended to overlap the next, the job numbers were continued in sequence from 1908 through to 1959. A few of the earlier projects were arranged by date, including single works by George Allen Ross and David Huron MacFarlane.

Job numbers were assigned to each project by the architects. The number 1 or 2 in parentheses after the job number was supplied by the Archivist to indicate a series. Ross & MacFarlane began the first series with job number 100 in 1908, which was then continued and ended by Ross & Macdonald with job number 999 in 1931. The firm then began a second series using job number 100 again, and by the beginning of 1960 the number reached by Ross, Fish, Duschenes & Barrett was 819. Six projects in the Maritimes from the 1950s have job numbers which begin with "A", and have been placed with the Miscellaneous projects.

The 633 projects in the fonds are numbered sequentially from AP013.S1.D1 to AP013.S1.D601, AP013.S2.D601 to AP013.S2.D630, and AP013.S3.D631 to AP013.S3.D632. Individual shop drawings make up Series 4 (AP013.S4).

Project AP013.S1.D601 is not arranged in Series 1 by the job number assigned by the architects. The content of project series AP013.S1.D601 was received in 2017 and the project was added at the end of the series.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Purchase from Duschenes & Fish in 1985.

Custodial history

The fonds was acquired in December 1985 from Montreal architects Duschenes & Fish. Because of the large number of items involved, it was decided to only acquire the documents from the earliest project up to and including the year 1959.

An addition consisting of 9 drawings was acquired in 2017.

Archivist's note

  • The Ross & MacDonald fonds was originally processed and described by David Rose in 1991. In 2007, the original finding aid was modified, by Tania Aldred, in order to conform to updated documentation procedures. A copy of the original finding aid, with indexes, appendices and lists of projects undertaken by Ross & MacFarlane and Ross & Macdonald for which there are no materials within the CCA Fonds, is available in print from the CCA Collection Division.

Credit line

Ross & Macdonald fonds
Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal

Related units of description

  • Related projects, concerning the same building or client, are mentioned in the finding aid at the project series level.

General note

  • The Art and Architectural Thesaurus (Oxford University Press, 1990) was consulted for the names of building types with a few exceptions (see Notes on the Indexes). The building descriptions are formatted to include information on foundations, structure, number and types of levels, exterior materials (facades only), and sometimes various other details. Lastly, the project's status is listed (executed, unexecuted, extant, demolished, etc.) as far as it could be determined in 1991. Project titles are derived from the fonds documents with some standardization for clarity. The information concerning each project has been taken from the Archive documents. Supplemented information has been designated by square parentheses. Location names of cities, streets, and street numbers are taken from the documents, with occasional supplementary information on current street numbers or names provided in square parentheses.

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