Twiss, Diana - M.A
The End of Style: John Day (1849-1896) and the Creation of a Guelph Vernacular Architecture - Dr. Gilbert Stelter, advisor
This paper will examine the work of the architect John Day (18491896) who spent his entire architectural career in the city of Guelph. It is more an architectural study than a biography of the man, due in part to a lack of records. But apart from whatever personal and private thoughts the man may have had, his contribution to the architectural history of Guelph warrants thorough investigation. For in the last few decades of the century, the building tradition in Guelph changed from a heavy use of traditional British architectural styles, to the creation of a Guelph vernacular architecture, based largely on American styles. And one of the key persons responsible for the change was John Day. In this paper I will explore the events that led to the "Americanization" of Guelph architecture and the. subsequent development of a vernacular style under the direction of John Day.
In many ways Day is an intriguing man. Based on available sources there are records of over thirty buildings he designed. Due to problems with the incomplete nature of the sources, there is good reason to believe that he was responsible for dozens more. One of the many fascinating aspects about this man and his life is the fact that, in spite of leaving a personal mark on the cityscape, in the form of a wide variety of structures, from churches, a skating rink, hotels, schools and a hospital, to an assortment of private dwellings, there is no other material about this man's life. Apart from his buildings we have no other information about his career. As much as historical imagination and speculation will allow, I have pieced his career together in order to understand why he built the way he did.
Any study of an architect necessarily involves investigations into three areas: training, professional duties and the buildings themselves. But to fully appreciate the contributions that Day made to architectural history and the history of Guelph we must examine him and his work within a wide historical context. In doing so I will examine John Day within the context of the architectural history of Victorian Canada to illustrate the numerous ways in which the architectural tradition of the Victorians had changed from that of the Georgian's Classical tradition. In order to situate Day's career within the proper framework, I will then review the numerous changes which occurred in the newly incorporated city of Guelph at the end of the nineteenth century. Changes in the profession of architecture 3 and in the building process as they may have affected Day's work will also be discussed to complete the setting for an examination of Day's career and the buildings he designed. To initiate the inquiry into the career of a Victorian architect, it is critical that we examine Victorian architecture in a general sense, to fully appreciate the nature of the discipline, and the best ways to conduct research into this relatively new area of study.