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Feb. 20, 2020 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: A rare Eclectic
A Nicholson & MacBeth-designed Eclectic Spanish Revival. (Submitted)

The early 20th century saw a bit of a housing boom in Niagara.

Certainly all of the most popular architectural styles are well represented: Arts & Crafts, Craftsman, Edwardian Classicism, and various presentations of the Eclectic school, including Neo-Georgian, Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival.

That said, despite the prevailing social conservativism of the majority, there also were those brave souls who embraced the more uncommon (in Canada) design expressions of the period and engaged architects who were prepared to creatively respond.

Among the finest of these intrepid designers was the architectural team of Arthur Nicholson and Robert MacBeth, for whom Niagara became a theatre of innovation.

The synergistic design relationship that developed between these two men during their decade-long association resulted in some of the most brilliant residences of the period.

Although best known for their Arts & Crafts and Tudor Revival interpretations, Nicholson and MacBeth were not hesitant to take on commissions from clients who wanted something that was more unusual. And the Eclectic revival options certainly offered that.

Generally speaking, Eclectics can be grouped into three categories: English & Anglo-American (Neo-Georgian, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival and Tudor Revival), French (Chateauesque, Beaux Arts and French Eclectic), and Mediterranean/Spanish (Italian Renaissance, Mission, Spanish Revival, Monterey and Pueblo Revival).

It was into this last category that Nicholson and MacBeth focused when, in 1928, Arthur Bate (of Taylor & Bate Brewery) awarded them the commission to design a Spanish Revival home on Yates Street in St. Catharines.

Despite never having designed a Spanish Revival (not often seen outside of California, Arizona, Texas or Florida), the architects more than justified their selection with a stellar interpretation.

With an asymmetrical facade, its half-round door with a faux iron grill (in this case, leaded glass) is emphasized by an impressive, honed limestone surround topped by a pair of half-round windows framed by Solomonic pilasters.

The half-round theme continues in the suspended French doors and the first-floor window pair. The combination of half-round and rectangular openings with irregular heights and distribution is the norm for Spanish Revival as is the clay Mission tile roofing. Since most Spanish Revivals are stucco’d, I suspect the brick cladding was a slight concession to neighbourhood norms.