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DUMARESQ, JAMES CHARLES PHILIP, architect; b. 18 Dec. 1844 in Sydney, N.S., second son of Charles Whitikin Frederic Augustus Dumaresq and Christianna McDonald; m. 27 June 1873 Maudline Matilda McDonald in Halifax, and they had two sons and four daughters; d. there 20 Dec. 1906.

James Charles Philip Dumaresq was descended from a prominent Jersey family. His grandfather Philippe (Philip) had been collector of customs in Cape Breton and his uncle Perry* a pioneer settler in northeastern New Brunswick. Dumaresq was educated in Sydney and at Horton Academy in Wolfville. Raised an Anglican, he became a Baptist at 19 and remained a staunch supporter of that church.

Nothing is known of Dumaresq’s architectural education. In 1868 and 1869 he was working as a carpenter in Sydney. If he followed the general pattern of his day, he was probably apprenticed to an architect before establishing his own business, in Halifax in the early 1870s; his skill and expertise point to this kind of training. He was typical of many Canadian architects of his generation who raised their status from craftsman to professional, an avenue which would close when professional standards became more stringent later in the century. Dumaresq worked alone for extended periods, but he is known to have formed at least six partnerships, some of which were short-lived liaisons of convenience. Even in his earliest associations he appears to have been the senior partner.

During his career Dumaresq made a significant contribution to the appearance of the cities and towns of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He was among the architects who flocked to Saint John, N.B., after the fire of 1877 [see Sylvester Zobieski Earle*] in order to rebuild the city and advance their careers. In partnership in 1877–78 with Andrew Dewar, also from Halifax, he designed the Bank of Nova Scotia building on Prince William Street and many other structures. It was not, however, the Saint John conflagration but the burning of the College Building at Acadia College in Wolfville in 1877 that provided Dumaresq with his first major commission. He collaborated on a design for a replacement building with Charles Osborne Wickenden, who had also gone to Saint John in 1877. Among the other designs submitted was one by William Critchlow Harris* of Prince Edward Island. Whatever the relative merits of the rival plans it is not surprising that the Baptist institution favoured Dumaresq’s work over that of the high Anglican Harris. The Acadia building was the first of many collegiate structures designed by Dumaresq. Others included the symmetrical red-brick Forrest Building at Dalhousie College in Halifax (1887), with its imposing central tower and mansard roof, a massive, fortress-like building at Mount Allison College in Sackville, N.B. (1893), which featured a Romanesque Revival doorway in the projecting central bay and strong corner pavilions, and the Queen-Anne Revival library at Presbyterian College in Halifax (1898), incorporating Dutch Revival gables and Château-style tower and turret.

The Acadia building gave Dumaresq the experience he needed to win the competition of 1878–80 for the New Brunswick Legislative Building in Fredericton. He adopted the Second Empire style, the signature style of Saint John following the fire. His design made provision for council and assembly chambers, a supreme-court chamber, and a library at the rear in the form of a Roman basilica. The building, which opened in 1882, bears a striking similarity to the College Building in Wolfville. Both have corner pavilions, a tall and narrow central bay projecting slightly from the main façade and surmounted by a pediment, and a central cupola.

About 1884 Dumaresq formed a partnership with Harry H. Mott of Saint John which would last at least ten years, although Dumaresq returned to Halifax around 1885. He collaborated with Mott on projects such as the Gower Street Methodist Church in St John’s (1892), a rusticated structure with Gothic Revival detailing and Château-style towers, but he also continued to work independently. His design for St Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Yarmouth, N.S. (1890), is in a classicizing Baroque style, appropriate to the faith for which it was built.

Dumaresq’s eclecticism was in step with developments in late Victorian architecture and the needs of his clients. His domestic work ranged from an elegant Queen-Anne Revival “cottage” on fashionable Young Avenue in Halifax, through a traditional Maritime Gothic residence in Sydney, to plans for a simple duplex. His business designs included a store for G. M. Smith on Barrington Street in Halifax (1893) which was built of brick with a rusticated stone façade featuring plate-glass windows on the ground floor. Although Dumaresq never created a really tall building, he was interested in the structural possibilities of materials such as iron and steel, as is shown by his design for McPherson and Freeman’s People’s Store in Halifax (1895–96), which had “a shop front with a double-height wall of plate glass.”

In 1899 Dumaresq’s son Sydney Perry joined his father to form J. C. Dumaresq and Son, and he continued the practice after his father’s death; he was followed in turn by a son and a grandson. James Dumaresq was thus the founder of a family with a distinctive place in the history of Canadian architecture.

Carolyn A. Young

Materials relating to James Charles Philip Dumaresq, including copies of obituaries, genealogies, a photograph, and letters referring to his career, are in the possession of Sydney P. Dumaresq of Halifax.

New Brunswick Legislative Library (Fredericton), J. C. [P.] Dumaresq, “Architectural plans and specifications for the legislative building, Fredericton, New Brunswick” (Saint John, N.B., 1880). PANB, MC 164/142. PANS, Charts, 125; MG 100, 104, no.2A; Map Div., Dumaresq & Byrne, architectural drawings; Misc. “A,” architecture, Dumaresq (mfm.). Halifax Herald, 21 Dec. 1906: 6. David Allison and C. E. Tuck, History of Nova Scotia (3v., Halifax, 1916), 3. Canadian album (Cochrane and Hopkins), vol.3. Canadian Architect, 20 (1907): 11. C. A. Hale, The rebuilding of Saint John, New Brunswick, 1877–1881 (Fredericton, 1990).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Carolyn A. Young, “DUMARESQ, JAMES CHARLES PHILIP,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 29, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dumaresq_james_charles_philip_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/dumaresq_james_charles_philip_13E.html
Author of Article: Carolyn A. Young
Title of Article: DUMARESQ, JAMES CHARLES PHILIP
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 1994
Access Date: July 29, 2014