Smith, Isaac

SMITH, Isaac (1795-1871) was born in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, England, the son of Richard Smith who worked as a tenant farmer on the local estate of Lord Feversham. The family cottage was located a short walking distance from Castle Howard, the substantial country house designed by Sir John Vanbrugh. Smith was baptized on 4 January 1795 and likely attended a local school near Ryedale, Yorkshire. It appears he did not receive any formal training in architecture, choosing instead to serve an apprenticeship with a local builder in Yorkshire. Both he and his brother Henry emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1817 and Isaac Smith found work as a carpenter and builder in Charlottetown. In 1823 he was granted the contract to build the Round Market Building there, a structure which had initially been designed by John Plaw, the talented British architect who died in Charlottetown in 1820.

Between 1830 and 1840 Smith provided plans and specifications for virtually every major public building in Prince Edward Island, including those for Government House, for three jails, two courthouses, and for the Central Academy in Charlottetown. In August 1839 a competition was called for the design of a new Colonial Building in Charlottetown. Smith submitted a refined, formally composed design for which he was awarded First Premium of £ 20.00. Constructed between 1843 and 1848, Province House is now considered to be one of the finest Neoclassical public buildings in Canada. A perspective rendering of this Palladian composition, likely from the hand of Smith, is now held in the Picture Collection of the National Archives of Canada (NAC Item C 7156).

Smith was, by all accounts, a very conscientious and meticulous architect and contractor, a fact borne out by his seventeen page handwritten petition and statement of qualifications dated 1 February 1848 in which he asked the Commissioners of the Colonial Building to grant additional funds to cover the cost overrun of £10,000 for the construction of this building (PAPEI, Acc. 2810, Ira Brown Papers). He served as President of the local Mechanic's Institute, gave lectures on hydrostatics, and took an interest in science and physics. He was also a devoutly religious man and 'held the position of preacher and local class leader' for Methodist groups in the Maritimes for several years. His career took an unexpected turn in 1848 when, at the height of his development, he chose to abandon the profession of architecture and became a travelling agent for the British & Foreign Bible Society. For the next 15 years he journeyed throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island spreading 'the word of God' and promoting the work of the Society. In 1861 he submitted a design in competition for a new Market House in Charlottetown and received First Premium of £10.00, but the project was never built. Smith retired in 1862 and died at Maitland, Nova Scotia on 4 November 1871 (obit. Patriot [Charlottetown], 25 November 1871, 3; Provincial Wesleyan [Halifax], 17 Jan. 1872, 4; biog. H.S. Smith, Historic Houses of Prince Edward Island, 1990, 45-6; inf. Mrs. A.K. Morrow, Toronto). A photographic portrait of Smith can be found at PAPEI, Acc. 2702.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., public market hall, Queen Square, 1823, adapted from an earlier plan by John Plaw (PAPEI, Smith/Alley Papers, Vol. 560, Indenture 21 May 1823)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., St. Paul's Anglican Church, 1828-29; additional works 1833 (PAPEI, Smith/Alley Papers, Vol 558, letter dated 7 Nov. 1828; Specification Vol 559; Royal Gazette [Charlottetown], 16 April 1833, t.c.)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., Provincial Gaol, Pownal Square, 1831; jail yard fence, 1842; all demol. c. 1910 (PAPEI, Executive Council Minutes, 5 Jan. 1831; Royal Gazette [Charlottetown], 10 Jan. 1832)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., Government House, a residence for the Lieutenant Governor, Pond Road at Park Roadway, 1833-34 (PAPEI, Executive Council Minutes, 31 Dec. 1832; 7 June 1833; I. Rogers, Charlottetown, 1983, 33-5, illus.)
ST. ELEANOR'S, P.E.I., Court House and Gaol, 1833; demol. c. 1970 (M. Carter, Early Canadian Court Houses, 1983, 43, illus.)
GEORGETOWN, P.E.I., Court House and Gaol, 1833; burned 1887 (Royal Gazette [Charlottetown], 5 March 1833, 1, t.c.)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., Central Academy (later Prince of Wales College), Grafton Street, 1833-36 (PAPEI, Acc. 2550, Warrant Book, 1835, Item 970; I. Rogers, Charlottetown, 1983, 327, illus.)
ST. ELEANOR'S, P.E.I., Anglican Church, 1836 (Royal Gazette [Charlottetown], 19 April 1836, 4, t.c.)
GEORGETOWN, P.E.I, public school, 1840 (PAPEI, Journal of the House of Assembly of P.E.I., 1843, Appendix J., 89)
GEORGETOWN, P.E.I., market hall, 1840 (PAPEI, Journal of the House of Assembly of P.E.I., 1843, Appendix J., 89)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., Colonial Building (later called Province House), Richmond Street, designed 1839; built 1843-48 (Royal Gazette [Charlottetown], 23 May 1843, 2, descrip.; Colonial Herald [Charlottetown], 4 May 1844, 3; dwgs. NAC, Picture Collection, C 7156; specifications PAPEI, Smith/Alley Papers, Vol. 563; Ira Brown Papers, Acc. 2810, Item 214; I. Rogers, Charlottetown, 1983, 215-17, illus., N. Clerk, Palladian Style in Canadian Architecture, 1984, 88, illus.; H. Kalman, History of Canadian Architecture, 1994, 135, illus.; James W. Macnutt, Building for Democracy, 2010, 48-81, 125, illus. & descrip.)
WINSLOE BARTON, P.E.I., residence for Edward Buxton, 1844 (Colonial Herald [Charlottetown], 2 March 1844, 3, t.c.)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., Asylum for the Insane, designed 1839; built 1845 (London, Public Record Office, CO 226/58, 76; inf. Mrs. A.K. Morrow, Toronto)
POINT PRIM, P.E.I., lighthouse, 1845 (Royal Gazette [Charlottetown], 6 May 1845, 2, t.c., but lacking attribution; inf. Mrs. A.K. Morrow, Toronto)
PICTOU, N.S., The Round Market, 1852; demol. 1892 (Eastern Chronicle [Pictou], 30 Nov. 1852; PANS, Pictou Quarter Sessions 1850-54, RG34, Vol. 37, February Term, 1853)
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I., Market House, 1861 (PAPEI, RG20, Vol. 1, City Council Minutes, meeting for 23 May 1861)