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Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||John Gibb Morton |
|Designation: ||Architect |
|Born: ||1876 |
|Died: ||13 February 1949 |
|Bio Notes: ||John Gibb Morton was the son of the goods manager at the Caledonian Railway Company, but nothing is known of his early training as he never became a member of the RIBA. In 1902 or early in 1903 he went into partnership with George Nicholas Beattie in Glasgow. The partnership was dissolved in 1909, perhaps because of the impact of the increment tax in the Finance Act of that year. The office at 121 St Vincent Street was closed and Morton took chambers at 74 Bath Street with one apprentice, William James Smith, later Professor at Glasgow School of Architecture. Late in 1910 or early in 1911 when he was engaged to be married he was in some difficulty financially and emigrated to Canada without his fiancée, leaving his father to pay the rent and provide money for Smith to redeem the office equipment from the pawnbroker. |
Victor W. Horsburgh, a fellow Scot, invited him to join the staff of the Dominion Realty Co., the real estate arm of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, and from 1910 to 1924 Morton served as chief draftsman under Horsburgh. In his later years he mainly designed churches.
Morton subsequently had what appears to have been a reasonably successful private practice in Toronto. He died on 13 February 1949. He had been married twice, and had three sons and two daughters and a step son.
Entry in Canadian Dictionary of Architects:
MORTON, John Gibb (1876-1949), a talented and highly underrated architect who became one of masters of ecclesiastical design in Ontario with his refined interpretations of the modern Gothic style. Born in Dennistown, a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland on 14 July 1876, he was educated at Ansonian College, Glasgow University, and graduated in 1898. He served a four year apprenticeship with John Hamilton in Glasgow (in 1898-1902), then moved to London and worked as draftsman in the office of Sir Aston Webb (in 1902-04), and returned to Glasgow to work as assistant to Sir John J. Burnett (in 1904-06). At the same time, he was also in partnership with a local Glasgow architect George N. Beattie, as Beattie & Morton from c. 1903 to 1909, and they took every opportunity to enter local architectural competitions in Scotland, none of which appear to have been successful for their firm. Their partnership was dissolved in 1909, and the following year Morton emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto. A fellow Scotsman, Victor W. Horsburgh, invited him to join the staff of the Dominion Realty Co., the real estate arm of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, and from 1910 to 1924 Morton served as chief draftsman under Horsburgh.
Beginning in 1921, Morton freelanced on his own, soliciting work from local Baptist, Presbyterian and United Church congregations, but most importantly, from the Roman Catholic Archdioceses in Toronto and in Ottawa, which provided him with the bulk of his commissions over the next fifteen years. By 1924 he was working full time under his own name, and quickly developed a reputation for his robust and finely proportioned designs for churches in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and in Nova Scotia. He possessed a wide-ranging scholarly knowledge of Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic precedents, and used these to great effect in his ecclesiastical commissions in Toronto. His finest work must surely be the remarkable design for Blessed Sacrement Roman Catholic Church in Ottawa ( 1932-33), a convincing interpretation of the modern Gothic style clad entirely in Indiana limestone. Impeccably detailed, this work has a dignity and presence rarely attained in Canada, except perhaps from the hand of other talented ecclesiastical designers such as Louis N. Audet in Quebec, or from his rival J. Francis Brown in Toronto.
Morton died in Toronto on 13 February 1949 (obit. Globe & Mail [Toronto], 14 Feb. 1949, 8; Daily Commercial News [Toronto], 15 Feb. 1949, with list of works; R.A.I.C. Journal, xxvi, April 1949, 125; biog. and list of works in R. Hamilton, Prominent Men of Canada, 1931-32, 341; inf. Ontario Association of Architects).
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|121, St Vincent Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||1909 *|| || |
|74, Bath Street, Glasgow, Scotland||Business||After 1909||Late 1910 or early 1911|| |
* earliest date known from documented sources.
Employment and Training
|The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date from||Date to||Position||Notes|
|G N Beattie & Morton||c. 1904||1909||Partner|| |
Employees or Pupils
|The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):|
| ||Name||Date from||Date to||Position||Notes|
|(Professor) William James Smith||1909||1910||Apprentice|| |
Buildings and Designs
|The following archives hold material relating to this architect:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|Courtesy of Robert Hill, Canada||Information sent to Dictionary|| || |
|Professor David M Walker personal archive||Professor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material|| ||Personal information from the late Professor William James Smith.|
© All rights reserved. Globe & Mail 14 February 1949.