Muir, Alexander Maxwell

MUIR, Alexander Maxwell (1859-1922) was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 19 February 1859 and was a pupil of Thomas L. Watson, the prominent Glasgow architect. Muir obtained a degree in engineering from the University of Glasgow then emigrated to the United States in 1885. He worked as contractor in Troy, N.Y., in Topeka, Kan. and in San Diego, Calif., and then moved to Victoria in 1889 where he worked for three years as a draftsman for John Teague. In 1891 the drawings he prepared for John Teague were submitted in the competition for the City Market and their office won the commission, enabling Muir to launch his own career in Victoria. That same year his plans were awarded First Premium in the competition for the Board of Trade Building; Muir's solution was an eclectic blend of bold Richardsonian Romanesque elements and a late Victorian styling which borrowed heavily for a variety of sources.

His initial success was not to last; in 1892 he was one of 65 entrants in the competition for the British Columbia Parliament Buildings but his entry, signed 'Patience', was not premiated, and the commission was awarded to F.M. Rattenbury. This loss must have had a strong impact on Muir, for nearly ten years later he complained publicly about the success of Rattenbury and his dominance of the profession in Victoria, accusing him of being 'anxious for the almighty dollar' and winning competitions on the basis of 'fortuitous circumstances rather than by pre-eminent ability' (letter by Muir in the Colonist [Victoria], 28 April 1903, 6). In 1892 Muir was one of 14 architects to compete for the North Ward and South Ward Schools commission, but his entry was rejected by the judge R. MacKay Fripp because it failed to comply with the competition rules (Colonist [Victoria], 13 July 1893, 8).

Muir was modestly successful in soliciting government work from the province of British Columbia, and his most notable achievement for that client was the Provincial Court House at Nelson, 1893, a striking public building executed in wood in an elaborate Queen Anne style. Muir continued to practise in Victoria until 1915 and died in Vancouver on 2 August 1922 (obit. Victoria Daily Times, 4 Aug. 1922, 9; biography in Victoria Daily Times, 13 April 1891, 8; biographies in Victoria Illustrated, 1891, 90; and Williams British Columbia Directory, 1892, 1179)

VICTORIA

(with John Teague) CITY MARKET, 1891 (list of works in Victoria Illustrated, 1891, 90)
OAK BAY HOTEL, 1891 (list of works in Victoria Illustrated, 1891, 90)
BELCHER STREET, at Moss Street, "Oakmeade", a large 3 storey residence for Joseph A. Sayward, 1891; demol. 1967 (Victoria Daily Times, 2 June 1891, 5, descrip.; Victoria Heritage Foundation, This Old House: Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods, Vol. 3, 2021, 154, illus. & descrip., but lacking attribution to the architect)
BOARD OF TRADE BUILDING, Bastion Square at Helmcken Alley, a commission won in a competition, 1892 (Colonist [Victoria], 21 Nov. 1891, 8, descrip.; and 1 Jan. 1893, 12, illus. & descrip.; M. Segger & D. Franklin, Victoria, 1979, 106-09, illus.)
GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS, addition to the Museum, 1892 (B.C., Sessional Papers, 1893, Public Accounts, 65)
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, addition, 1892 (B.C., Sessional Papers, 1893, Public Accounts, 1893, 66)
BATTERY STREET, residence for Charles R. Nairne, 1893 (M. Segger & D. Franklin, Victoria, 1979, 178-9, illus.)
VICTORIA WEST PUBLIC SCHOOL, major addition, 1893 (Victoria Daily Times, 17 May 1895, 7)
TEXADA ISLAND, STRAIT OF GEORGIA, B.C., hotel for an unnamed client, 1897 (Vancouver Daily World, 2 Sept. 1897, 8)
HALL BUILDING, Yates Street at Waddington Alley, commercial block, 1899 (Colonist [Victoria], 23 March 1899, 5, t.c.; M. Segger & D. Franklin, Exploring Victoria's Architecture, 1996, 35, illus.)
KANE STREET, two houses for an unnamed owner, 1899 (Victoria Globe, 7 April 1899, 1, t.c.)
BLANSHARD STREET, at Pioneer Street, a two storey house for an unnamed owner, 1899 (Victoria Daily Times, 13 June 1899, 2, t.c.)
BANK OF BRITISH NORTH AMERICA, Yates Street, major alterations, 1902 (C.R., xiii, 28 May 1902, 6)
ESQUIMALT, VICTORIA WEST, residence for Capt. William D. Owen, Florence Road [now Devonshire Road], near Cave Street, 1903; demol. (Victoria Daily Times, 3 June 1903, 5; inf. Sherri Robinson, Victoria) )
FIRE HALL NO. 5, Douglas Street near Dunedin Street, 1908; demol. 1979 (C.R., xxii, 12 Aug. 1908, 26, t.c.; Victoria Heritage Foundation, This Old House: Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods, Vol. 3, 2021, 33, illus. & descrip.)
JAMES BAY, Fire Hall, 1908 (C.R., xxii, 12 Aug. 1908, 26, t.c.)
(attributed) CATHERINE STREET, a group of three identical houses for Arthur Walter, 1908 (Victoria Heritage Foundation, This Old House: Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods, Vol. 1, 2013, 167-69, illus. & descrip.)
JOHNSON STREET, near Douglas Street, commercial block for Watson & McGregor Hardware Co., 1909 (C.R., xxiii, 7 April 1909, 23; The Week [Victoria], 5 June 1909, 3)
JOHNSON STREET, livery for Cameron & Calwell, 1909 (C.R., xxiii, 7 April 1909, 23)
NIAGARA STREET, near Croft Street, major addition to residence for Herman Erb, 1910 (Daily Colonist [Victoria], 6 May 1911, 10, article on legal case)
YATES STREET, at Fernwood Road, residence for Albert H. Mitchell, 1915 (Victoria Daily Times, 19 April 1915, 12, illus.)

ELSEWHERE

VERNON, B.C., Court House, 1892 (B.C., Sessional Papers, 1894, Public Accounts, 75; dwgs. at BCPA)
NELSON, B.C., Court House, Ward Street at Vernon Street, 1893; demol. c. 1956 (B.C., Sessional Papers, 1894-95, Public Accounts, 90; dwgs. at BCPA)
VERNON, B.C., public school, 1894 (B.C., Sessional Papers, 1894-95, Public Accounts, 96)
KAMLOOPS, B.C., City Jail, 1897 (C.R., viii, 17 June 1897, 2; B.C., Sessional Papers, 1899, Public Accounts, 615; dwgs. at BCPA)
NELSON, B.C., City Jail, 1898 (B.C., Sessional Papers, 1899, Public Accounts, 615)
CHEMAINUS, B.C., General Hospital, 1899-1900; and later additions to the General Hospital, 1903 (Victoria Daily Times, 21 Nov. 1899, 4, t.c.; and 7 May 1900, 2, descrip., and 9 May 1900, 6, descrip.; Vancouver Daily World, 11 May 1900, 6; C.R., xiv, 1 April 1903, 3, t.c.; and Victoria Daily Times, 19 March 1903, 5, descrip.)
VANCOUVER, B.C., B.C. Market Building, Alexander Street, "...adjoining the Boyd-Burns Building", 1906; partly demol. 1998, but facade still standing (Vancouver Daily World, 10 Oct. 1906, 1, descrip.)

COMPETITIONS

VICTORIA, B.C., North Ward School and South Ward School, 1893. The office of A. Maxwell Muir was one of 14 architects from the USA and Canada who submitted plans in this competition (Victoria Daily Times, 13 July 1893, 7, descrip. and list of competitors). The juror was R. Mackay Fripp of Vancouver. The design by Muir, labeled No. 2, was not among the prize winners. The first premium was awarded to Soule & Day, along with W. Ridgeway Wilson.