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VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE IN LONDON AND SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO: SYMBOLS OF ASPIRATION.

Tausky, Nancy Z. and Lynne D. DiStefano.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press. cl986. 493pp, cloth, $34.95, ISBN 0-8020-5698-9. CIP

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Anne Fiske

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May


Victorian Architecture in London and Southwestern Ontario: Symbols of Aspiration is a visual experience of its own, and a very pleasing one at that. It looks the way all art books should: it has beautiful paper, large, readable type, and excellent photographs lo enhance the text. The volume is well bound, and stitched to allow its pages to remain open where desired. Physically, the book entices. And, substantively, it does not disappoint.

Nancy Tausky and Lynne DiStefano, both affiliated with the University of Western Ontario, have long-standing involvements with the development of interest in architectural heritage and conservation. Their book, which was published in conjunction with a circulating exhibition first presented at the London Regional Art Gallery, is the culmination of research begun eleven years ago. It draws heavily from the Murphy-Moore Collection of records, documents, and architectural drawing. This collection was donated to the University of Western Ontario by Ronald Murphy, whose architectural firm is descended from the company founded by William Robinson upon which the book centres.

The purpose of the book is to examine the significant relationship of architecture to the social, economic, and religious development in Victorian London and surrounding communities, and to discuss the specific architectural contributions of the firm founded by Robinson in 1857 and continued with the work of Thomas Tracy, George Durand, Fred Henry, John Moore, and J. Vicar Munro.

Written in a straight-for ward manner the book has clearly defined textual sections, and post-textual material that includes a glossary of relevant architectural terms, notes, sources, and an index. The book is approached from an historical point of view beginning with a review of the origins of the city of London. The chapter continues with an overview of architectural history, particularly dealing with those aspects later utilized in nineteenth century "revival."

Chapter 2, "The Architect in Victorian Canada, explains the idea and training of the typical architect during this period, and discusses the evolution of his role during the second half of the nineteenth century. The subject of local raw and manufactured building materials, and of the influence of technology on building in southwestern Ontario is also presented.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 deal with the Robinson, Durand, and Moore eras, and with specific architectural examples that illustrate the way in which each man adapted his own experience and character to create fashionable symbols of a prosperous city and its surrounds. Numerous photographs, drawings, and plans are included with the historical and descriptive texts written about ecclesiastical, public, and private structures created by these talented men.

Victorian Architecture in London and Southwestern Ontario, the subject and the book, are both matters of substance, through their well-written text, illustrated with Ian MacEachern's excellent photographs, the authors have managed to bring to the reader a real sense of heritage, and the real need for conservation. Each photograph labelled "Demolished" serves as a reminder to the twentieth century of the ease with which our heritage can be destroyed. With its general architectural information, its glossary, and source list, this book is a good reference tool for secondary school and public libraries. With its clearly written style, it is appropriate too, for leisure reading, the book is scholarly without being academic, informative without being pedantic. While it may be of particular interest to residents of the London area, there is enough general information to recommend it to a wider audience.


Anne Fiske, London, Ont.
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