Russell Road

Russell Road is named in honour of James Russell, architect

James Russell    Stratford-Perth Archives

James Simpson Russell, architect

James Simpson Russell (1870-1937) was an important regional architect in southwestern Ontario from 1900 until after 1930. From his office in Stratford, he obtained commissions in locations as far north as Parry Sound and Midland, eastward to Oshawa, south to Port McNichol, and throughout Perth, Huron and Waterloo counties. Born in Scotland in 1870, he immigrated to Canada in 1888 and lived in Nappanee and Toronto, as well as in Pennsylvania.

While in Toronto, he trained with the prominent architect William R. Gregg from 1889 to 1892 (Toronto City Directory, 1889).

In 1893 he was one of eight architects selected by the Presbyterian Church in Canada to prepare plans for a prototype for a small-town church, to be built in various Ontario locations.

His plans and perspective drawings for that model church were published in Designs for Village, Town and City Churches by the committee on church architecture, 1893, pages 16-18. A copy of that rare early-Canadian pattern book is held at the United Church Archives, Toronto.

Bandshell on the Avon River drive 1930

In 1897, Russell moved to Stratford, Ont., to become chief assistant to Harry J. Powell, a successful architect. In 1901, he opened his own office in Stratford and lived at 35 Shrewsbury St. In 1903, he was invited by Robert Thomas Orr to form a partnership in Stratford. Their collaboration was relatively brief, and ended in 1906 when Russell returned to practising under his own name. He then maintained his own office for the next three decades.

He had a wide-ranging practice and produced designs for at least four Carnegie library buildings, more than a dozen churches, and a dozen public and separate schools throughout south and central Ontario. His ecclesiastical works were invariably Gothic in style, with distinctive corner towers, which made them landmarks in small Ontario towns such as Brussels, Owen Sound, Midland and New Hamburg. However, his details and façade treatment often lacked the refinement and attention to scholarly detail evident in the church designs of Henry Langley or Edmund Burke or J. Gibb Morton, all of whom set a high standard for ecclesiastical design that others were to follow.

Russell continued to practise until after 1930. He did design work for more that 20 buildings in Stratford. He died unexpectedly at age 68 in 1937.  Source: Biographical Dictionary of Architect

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