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Fred Cumberland

Fred Cumberland: Building the Victorian Dream

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 384
  • Book Info
    Fred Cumberland
    Book Description:

    Fred Cumberland (1821-81) a Canadian Renaissance man: an architect, railway manager and politician, whose life and work changed Victorian Toronto?s urban landscape.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7505-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    • CHAPTER ONE Early Life in Ireland and England
      (pp. 3-10)

      In the spring of 1869, Fred Cumberland, weary of politics and in poor health, took a recuperative holiday in Cuba. A diary chronicled his reactions to the trip.¹ While on board ship to Cuba, Cumberland met an Irish steward who had grown up in the same suburb of Dublin, Rathmines. A little more than a mile south of St Stephen’s Green, Rathmines was one of the fashionable suburbs on Dublin’s south side that had been developed during the early nineteenth century. It was a brisk walk of about twenty minutes from Dublin Castle, where Cumberland’s father Thomas had been employed....

    • CHAPTER TWO Constructing a Canadian Career: The First Years in Toronto
      (pp. 11-16)

      Under the heading ‘Immigrants,’ the following terse notice appeared in theToronto Examineron 15 September 1847, around the time that the Cumberlands arrived in the city:

      300 indigent Scotch arrived this morning. Sent to hospital, 31. Emigrant fever hospital: number at last return: 533: admitted 26, died 9, left six, remaining 544. Number of emigrants arrived at the Port of Toronto up to the 6th instant: 31,563.¹

      The ‘fever’ was typhus. On 22 September theExaminerreported on a meeting held at the City Hall two days before, during which the problems caused by the great influx of immigrants...

    • CHAPTER THREE Cumberland and the Canadian Interpretation of the Victorian Concept of Progress
      (pp. 17-22)

      Cumberland joined wholeheartedly in that peculiarly mid-Victorian brand of optimism that was a curious blend of science and spirituality.¹ The mid-Victorians believed that discoveries in natural science would gradually lead to a revelation of the workings of the Divine Plan. British writers compared Canada favourably with the mother country, noting with dismay the noxious conditions of Britain’s industrial cities. Canada, with its vast spaces and equally vast potential, seemed morally as well as physically a New World. Such thinking helps explain why the first scientific studies undertaken in Canada were eminently practical - particularly in geology. Sir William Logan (1798–1875),...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Midcareer, Full Stride: The 1850s
      (pp. 23-31)

      By the mid-1850s Cumberland had succeeded to such an extent that he could hardly revise his ambitions fast enough to coincide with his achievements. In a letter to Wilmot written in July 1854 - she was then in England for a holiday - Cumberland allowed himself to boast unreservedly of his political aspirations and his business dealings. ‘When I scrawled my last,’ he wrote, ‘Mrs. Street was with us and I had been put to see Joe Morrison [a business associate] with reference to the annual meeting of the Northern Railway, preparations for which had kept me in a whirl...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Life on the Railway
      (pp. 32-41)

      Railways were a conspicuous manifestation of nineteenth-century progress in Canada West as elsewhere, and they attracted many capable men.¹ Although the railway came relatively late to Canada - largely because of the protracted completion of a canal system during the 1840s - an explosion of railway building in Canada rapidly made up for the slow start: from 1852 to 1859 more than 1,400 miles of railways were built in Canada West.² By 1857 there were 1,402 miles of railways in Canada East and Canada West, operated by eleven different companies. The Great Western operated 279 miles of roads, and the...

    • CHAPTER SIX Political Career
      (pp. 42-45)

      Cumberland entered politics for three reasons: to further the interests of the Northern Railway; because of loyalty to and affection for Sir John A. Macdonald and the Conservative Party; and because serving as a politician facilitated his access to the highest echelons of Canadian society. But the Northern’s interests were foremost in his mind. This helps to explain, for instance, why he opted for the remote northern riding of Algoma instead of one in the Toronto region. The Northern’s routes ran through the District of Algoma and he considered that it would be advantageous to represent one of the principal...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Later Personal Life
      (pp. 46-56)

      The two previous chapters treated the railway and politics and ranged widely across Cumberland’s professional life during the 1860s and later. This chapter is devoted to considering aspects of Cumberland’s personal and social life during the same period. After 1860 Cumberland enjoyed increasing social status and came to occupy a number of prestigious positions in Toronto society. In the 1860s militia companies were formed in Toronto and elsewhere because of a justifiable concern with the Fenians, those Irish-American nationalists who invaded Canadian territory on several occasions. Prominent Canadians such as the Toronto engineer and financier Casimir Gzowski took the lead...


    • CHAPTER EIGHT Assessing the English Heritage
      (pp. 59-71)

      Although Cumberland was only twenty-seven when he emigrated to Canada, he had already gained considerable experience in several aspects of architecture and civil engineering. Four sources of information can be tapped for insight into Cumberland’s English training and career: letters written by employers and colleagues;¹ the surviving contents of his professional library; the visual evidence, namely the sketch-books and drawings that he brought with him when he emigrated; and finally, his letters to Wilmot.

      Following his apprenticeship with William Tress, and before joining the British Admiralty, Cumberland worked briefly for several less well-known architects and engineers and as an assistant...

    • CHAPTER NINE ʻThe Beautiful Mediumʼ and Other Topics: Reconstructing Cumberlandʼs Architectural Theory and Practice
      (pp. 72-77)

      Cumberland was a businessman-architect, the first of a new breed of Canadian professionals whose careers paralleled those of architects in mid-Victorian England, particularly George Edmund Street.’¹ Like these architects, Cumberland strove for artistic expression, but regarded architecture first and foremost as a speculative venture from which he hoped to profit. He succeeded in architecture not only because of his talents as a designer (and his judgment in selecting partners), but also because of his ruthless and domineering personality – a personality that allowed him to regard the skills of his employees as expendable.

      Subsequent chapters will discuss the projects designed...

    • CHAPTER TEN A Selection of Schools
      (pp. 78-91)

      This dreadful doggerel helps introduce issues central to this chapter, ones widely debated during the 1840s and 1850s. Should there be public schools? If so, who should pay for them, and what should their curricula be? Should institutions of higher learning have a religious foundation? As Canada grew in population and wealth, questions such as these had to be addressed and resolved. Cumberland, who designed several schools, entered the debates through his architecture.

      Cumberland’s design for University College is so important to his career and indeed to Canadian architecture generally that one tends to forget that he also designed four...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN University College
      (pp. 92-116)

      University College was the pride of Toronto (fig. 11.1). Erected in three short years from 1856 to 1859, with little concern for expense and every concern for rich visual effect, the building caused visitors to marvel at its elaborate detailing and dramatic picturesque effect.¹ Here, for instance, is the opinion of the noted English writer Anthony Trollope,² on a visit to North America in 1862, who found that University College was one of only two Toronto buildings worth singling out:

      The two sights of Toronto are the Osgoode Hall [recently renovated and expanded in accordance with designs prepared by Cumberland]...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Steeples for the People: Church Designs
      (pp. 117-148)

      Ecclesiastical architecture during the nineteenth century attracted architectural theory the way a church steeple attracts lightning bolts. The Industrial Revolution had so undermined the spiritual basis of society that many people believed an architecture expressing true religious sentiment was no longer possible. In response, theorists of the 1830s and later argued vehemently for a return to architectural expressions with a spiritual basis. They thought the Middle Ages offered a model for a renewed Christian architecture. A.W.N. Pugin, for example, believed medieval society had been characterized by order and dignity, and that medieval buildings reflected this order and dignity through their...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Post Offices, Courthouses, and Other Public Buildings
      (pp. 149-183)

      If a strong case can be made that the Normal School has been the building most neglected by Cumberland scholars, an equally strong case can be made that his buildings designed for the general public represent the most significant building type neglected in previous discussions of his work. Cumberland designed two post offices for the Province of Canada, renovations and additions to Osgoode Hall, and the Toronto Mechanics’ Institute. He also lavished attention on three unexecuted designs for a building to house the Canadian Institute. These will be the subjects of the following discussion.

      Cumberland designed the Seventh Toronto Post...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Private Commissions: Houses and Commercial Buildings
      (pp. 184-224)

      Although Cumberland designed scarcely a dozen houses during his career, his clients included judges, politicians, merchants, and railway entrepreneurs - all leading figures in Toronto both financially and politically. Cumberland was able to obtain these commissions because of his connection with the Ridout family, which placed him on an equal social footing with a clientele that included both members of the old Toronto establishment and others who had risen to the top through business acumen alone.

      As early as 1848–9 Cumberland undertook house renovations for Justice Robert Baldwin Sullivan (1802–53), who had served as Toronto’s second mayor in 1835.¹ Cumberland’s...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Proposals for Building a National Capital
      (pp. 225-241)

      In 1853 Cumberland & Storm submitted plans for a governor general’s residence and a new legislative building in Toronto. This scheme was eventually rejected. Later, in 1859, two years after Ottawa was selected as the Canadian capital, the firm entered the competition to design a governor general’s residence and Parliament Buildings for the new seat of government. Again, Cumberland’s ambition to be the architect of grand government buildings was thwarted, but not before his design for a governor general’s residence came close to realization. Other authors have claimed that Cumberland attached a great deal of importance to these projects and that...

    • EPILOGUE Cumberlandʼs Legacy
      (pp. 242-242)

      The Canadian government’s failure to execute Cumberland’s designs for the governor general’s residence, coming as it did on the heels of officialdom’s rejection of his proposal for Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings, was probably the last setback to his architectural career that he was prepared to tolerate. It was no doubt with mixed emotions that he watched from the sidelines as the cost of constructing his competitor’s Parliament Buildings mushroomed to the point where the work was halted for two years while an official inquiry was held.¹ Although the firm of Cumberland & Storm continued to exist on paper until 1871, Cumberland’s heart...


      (pp. 245-247)

      Thiscatalogue raisonnélists all known works, executed and unexecuted, by Fred Cumberland working alone and in association with his two partners. Where applicable, the partnership responsible for the work in question is listed, as are (if known) the name of the partner-incharge and the names of the clients and contractors. Surviving specifications are also noted, as are tender calls. Because the latter were often published in several newspapers at once, for simplicity’s sake only those from the TorontoGlobeare given. Thiscatalogue raisonnéalso cites the more important manuscript sources and magazine and newspaper articles connected with a...

    • Catalogue of Works
      (pp. 248-292)

      Two brown sketch-books, each nine-and-a-half inches wide by fourteen-and-a-half inches long

      F.W. Cumberland (signature on inside front cover of vol. 1)

      DATE: Vol. 2, p. 4, bears the date 30 January 1838 LOCATION: Horwood Add. 5, box 8

      Sketch-books, which date from Cumberland’s time as an apprentice to William Tress, contain precise, academic drawings of various features of classical, medieval, and later buildings, from books and from actual observation. Two authorities are noted: Sir William Chambers’sTreatise on the Decorative Part of Civil Architectureand Peter Frederick Robinson’sRural Architecture.

      Drawing by Frederic Cumberland (?)

      DATE: 1839

      DRAWING: Horwood (50)2,...

  9. APPENDIX A Cumberlandʼs Principal Executed Works
    (pp. 293-294)
  10. APPENDIX B Cumberlandʼs Architectural Library
    (pp. 295-298)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 299-322)
    (pp. 323-334)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 335-345)