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YOUNG, THOMAS, artist, teacher, architect, politician, civil engineer, and surveyor; b. c. 1805 in England, son of Thomas Young; he and his wife Mary Cordelia had two sons and four daughters; d. 3 Oct. 1860 in Toronto.

Thomas Young studied architecture in London with Charles Heathcote Tatham, a noteworthy exponent of the neoclassical style, and later acquired practical experience in that city with the engineering firm of Joseph Bramah and Sons. The reasons for Young’s immigration to North America are not known, but by 1834 he had settled in Toronto, establishing himself as an art teacher and artist. From 1834 to 1839 he was a drawing master at Upper Canada College; in 1836 he conducted drawing classes at the Home District Grammar School. At the same time he sketched and painted the townscape, and in 1835–36 advertised for subscribers to his series of Four views of the city of Toronto, issued in New York City by the newly founded house of Nathaniel Currier. These accomplished lithographs, executed at an early stage in Toronto’s development and the first generally available scenes of the city, provide valuable views of Upper Canada College, the recently erected provincial parliament buildings, King Street, and the city from the eastern shore-line. As was done in many of Currier’s urban prints, Young’s views were enhanced with architectural features then unrealized. To the parliament buildings, for example, Young added his own version of a porch that the government had been unable to build for lack of funds, and in the view of King Street he provided a steeple for the truncated, tower of St James’ Church.

Young remained active as an artist but, thoroughly acquainted with neoclassicism and other trends in British architecture, he soon gained greater prominence as an architect. At this time opportunities in that field were considerable in the rapidly expanding community. His first architectural work in Toronto seems to have been a house and outbuildings for Robert Baldwin Sullivan, completed in 1836. Later that year he prepared a plan for laying out the city’s market block. Although considered by Charles Daly, the city clerk and an artist, to be “highly indicative of taste, talent, and perseverance,” it was rejected in favour of the plan by John George Howard*, who had come to York (Toronto) in 1832 and was frequently to be Young’s architectural rival. In 1837, following the rejection of a design submitted by Howard about 1835, Young obtained the attractive commission to design King’s College. Retaining the monumental Greek Revival idiom of a plan drawn up a decade earlier by the English architect Charles Fowler, he reduced his scheme to one more suited to the Canadian climate but still magnificent both in effect and in its contemporary association with learning and refined culture. It consisted of a wide, porticoed central structure connected by a covered walkway to a pair of wings which would embrace a spacious forecourt, a traditional English layout clothed here in austere neoclassical detail. The rebellion of 1837–38, financial constraints, and changes in government appointments delayed the start of construction until 1842; Young, however, modified the vacant parliament buildings to house temporarily the college classes which began in 1843 under the direction of the Reverend John McCaul*. Between 1843 and 1849 Young was retained by the college as its architect at an annual salary of £200. The southeast wing of the college, a three-storey structure of Kingston limestone with an imposing façade distinguished by a Greek Doric frieze and giant half-columns, was completed in 1845 in what would become Queen’s Park. Now demolished, the building served as a residence and administrative centre until the passage of Robert Baldwin’s 1849 bill, which reorganized the college to form the University of Toronto, forced the abandonment of the remainder of Young’s scheme. The university’s attempt to proceed with renewed building in 1852, based on fresh plans from Young, was thwarted by Governor General Lord Elgin [Bruce*] for reasons which are not clear.

During the period of Young’s concern with King’s College, he secured major commissions from three new administrative districts: the Wellington District jail (1839–40) and court-house (1842–44) at Guelph, the Huron District jail (1839–42) at Goderich, and the Simcoe District jail (1840–41) at Barrie. The Guelph court-house, now much remodelled, was a symmetrical building with entrances into castellated corner towers and it had been conceived in the medieval mode then associated with administrative and legal authority, an early Canadian example being John Ewart’s London District court-house. The jails at Goderich and Barrie, which also survive, were distinctive forms based on the octagonal plan with radiating wings that was widely advocated in Britain in the first half of the 19th century.

Young’s other known buildings were erected in the Toronto region. Of these, the only surviving structure is Trinity Church in Streetsville (Mississauga) (1842–43), now greatly altered. Following the destruction by fire of St James’ Church in January 1839, he had designed a replacement and shortly after its designation later that year as cathedral church of the new diocese of Toronto [see John Strachan*] completed it with a handsome tower and steeple. The Anatomical School (named Moss Hall in 1879) was designed in 1850 for the University of Toronto’s medical faculty. Located southwest of the former King’s College, the school was a dignified Georgian form in classical style with colossal pilasters, complementary to the college but executed in white brick. As well, Young designed two market buildings, both in the Italianate style: St Andrew’s Market, built of wood about 1849 with a surrounding piazza, and St Patrick’s Market (1850–54), a compact, two-storey composition in brick, crisply detailed and set off with a tall bell-tower to announce its function.

Like all architects, Young produced a number of designs which were never executed. In Toronto neither his plan in 1839 to enlarge and complete Ewart’s St Andrew’s Church with a steeple nor his design a year later for the Church of St George the Martyr was implemented. In 1841 he designed a scheme for the city’s Market Lane (Colborne Street) that was to have included a row of shops on either side of a masonic hall combined with a school or an exchange. Two years later his obelisk design won first premium in the competition for a new monument to Sir Isaac Brock* at Queenston Heights which would replace the one sabotaged in 1840 by Benjamin Lett. Rebuilding was deferred because of lack of funds and, when the competition was repeated in 1852, Young’s composition of a gigantic Doric column was passed over in favour of the even larger and more flamboyant entry of William Thomas. Young had also placed second to Thomas in 1847 in the competition for the design of Knox Church.

Young produced other architectural designs strictly for artistic purposes, and he continued to paint landscapes. As a committee member of the Toronto Society of Arts, which held exhibitions in 1847 and in 1848 to encourage a taste for the arts among local citizens, he submitted works that were largely architectural in character, such as his designs for Grecian and Anglo-Italian villas, his design for Brock’s monument, and renderings of buildings in Hampshire, England. One of his water-colour landscapes won a first prize at the provincial exhibition of 1847 and his View of Hamilton, from the mountain was included in the Toronto Society of Arts exhibition the next year. Of a specifically commercial nature were the sketches he made of Hamilton shop exteriors for advertising circulars. As in his prints of Toronto, Young effectively incorporated a lively portrayal of the daily activities of the townspeople. In the mechanics’ institute exhibition of October 1848 four coloured engravings by Young and his model for Brock’s Monument were displayed. The following year he lectured at the institute on the history of architecture, and was appointed drawing master for the Toronto Society of Arts. As well he was one of several local artists and architects to belong to the Canadian Institute, founded in 1849. For the 1851 topographical plan of Toronto, which was based on the surveys of two other institute members, John Stoughton Dennis* and Sandford Fleming*, Young drew the border illustrating the city’s principal buildings.

For a brief period he involved himself in Toronto’s municipal affairs, serving as a councilman for St Andrew’s Ward in 1839–40. Between 1840 and 1842 he was employed part-time by the city as an architect, engineer, and surveyor. Late in 1842, however, he quarrelled with the city over matters of payment and threatened legal action. He was subsequently dismissed and replaced by John George Howard in May 1843. Young’s professional life was further disrupted by marital difficulties. In 1841 he had left his wife, taking their youngest child with him, and, although a daughter was born a year later, the apparent reconciliation does not seem to have lasted.

Few details are known of Young’s architectural office. For some months early in 1842 he worked in partnership with James Cane, another artist, surveyor, and civil engineer; during the early 1840s he employed William Robinson, who later became a surveyor, an architect, and London’s city engineer. In 1847 Young worked with John Stoughton Dennis in laying out a parcel of land in the western area of Toronto. The professional climate in which Young practised was not always calm. During his work for St Andrew’s Church he was taken to court and the project was taken over by Howard, who in competition with Young for other commissions was often incensed by his frequent pleas for extensions of time. In 1840 the intervention of the Goderich jail building committee in the execution of his plan led him to withdraw from the project; a prior letter from Howard to the committee outlining the proper duties of an architect cannot have smoothed the situation. During the construction of King’s College a dispute arose between Young and the contractor, John Ritchey, over discrepancies in accounts and had to be adjudicated by a second architect, Henry Bowyer Joseph Lane. In 1844 Young, Lane, and William Thomas appear to have banded together to challenge Howard’s appointment as architect of the proposed provincial lunatic asylum. About 1844 Young formed a partnership with the builder Daniel McDonald. They were awarded the contract for erecting the new market building on Front Street, designed by Lane and completed in 1845. Later that year Young was forced into personal bankruptcy, the reasons for which are not certain.

After the early 1850s Young’s career clearly began to founder. His appointment in 1857 as clerk of the works for the construction of the city jail (now known as the Don Jail) displeased its architect, William Thomas, who evidently had not been consulted and furthermore would have preferred a more “practical man” such as a trades foreman. The municipal committee charged with investigating construction delays found Young’s records of salaries and transactions lax and in 1859 he was replaced by James Price. Young’s last known work was the arch erected by the Orange order in September 1860 for the Prince of Wales’s visit to Toronto.

Young died suddenly of apoplexy a month later in a Toronto hotel and was buried, apparently by the benevolent St George’s Society, in St James’ Cemetery. According to an obituary in the Toronto Daily Leader, the “seductive but destroying influence of liquor” had undoubtedly contributed to the waning of his career as well as to the deterioration of his health. This and ever-increasing competition from other architects, often younger and better-trained, who had arrived in Upper Canada during the 1840s and 1850s, including William Thomas, Henry Bowyer Joseph Lane, Frederic William Cumberland*, and William Hay*, prevented him from fully realizing his potential.

His work demonstrates considerable range and ability. With choice of style carefully allied to function, his compositions, drawn from a variety of revival styles, reflect the eclecticism that prevailed in his period. That he was capable of richly conceived detail and design on a grand scale, with a sense of appropriate monumentality, is confirmed by his stately scheme for King’s College.

Shirley G. Morriss

Surviving plans drawn by Thomas Young include those held by the MTL (J. G. Howard papers, sect.iii, architectural plans, nos.220, 408–9, and plans of Toronto lots, no.726.5), the CTA (CRC 685.6, 1841), and the Univ. of Toronto Arch. (A65-0001). A drawing for King’s College, unsigned but attributed to Young, is in the uncatalogued J. C. B. and E. O. Horwood coll. at the AO, as is a signed plan of the third St James’ Church, Toronto. Other architectural drawings by Young and his sketch, View of Hamilton, from the mountain, are mentioned in the Toronto Soc. of Arts catalogues Toronto Society of Arts: first exhibition, 1847 . . . ([Toronto?, 1847?] and . . . second exhibition, 1848 . . . ([Toronto?, 1848?]). The View of Hamilton may be the same as Young’s undated lithograph of Hamilton, from the mountain road, published in New York by the firm of Saxony & Major, and reproduced in C. P. De Volpi, The Niagara Peninsula, a pictorial record . . . (Montreal, 1966), plate 33. Coloured engravings by Young as well as his “model design” for Brock’s Monument were exhibited in Toronto at the Mechanics Institute exhibition of 1848 (MTL, Toronto, Mechanics Institute papers, D25 (exhibitions, 1847–49: accounts and exhibits)). The Canadiana Dept. of the Royal Ont. Museum (Toronto) has in its Sigmund Samuel Coll. a set of Young’s Four views of the city of Toronto, lithographed by Nathaniel Currier (New York, 1835). Young’s commercial work also includes the pictorial border for the Topographical plan of the city of Toronto, in the province of Canada, compiled by Sandford Fleming and published in Toronto in 1851 by Hugh Scobie’s firm.

ACC-T, St George the Martyr (Toronto), negotiations of the first building committee, 1840. AO, MU 296, sect.i, Thomas Young to Colonel Bullock, 31 Dec. 1842, 3 May 1843. CTA, RG 1, A, 1834–59; B, 1834–59; RG 4, D, 31 Aug. 1844, 19 Dec. 1845; E, 1858; F, 19 Jan. 1846. MTL, J. G. Howard papers, sect.ii, diaries, 21 Jan.–4 Feb. 1837; 3, 22 July, 5 Aug. 1840; 28 Dec. 1841; 11 Dec. 1844. PAC, RG 5, C2, 26: 329, 359–60 (mfm. at AO). Royal Canadian Institute (Toronto), Canadian Institute, minutes, 7 Dec. 1850. St James’ Cathedral Arch. (Anglican) (Toronto), Records of St James’ Church, 1839–49; Reg. of baptisms, 1821–56; reg. of burials, 1835–50. St James’ Cemetery and Crematorium (Toronto), Record of burials, 7 Oct. 1860. Univ. of Toronto Arch., A68-0010, I/A/3, 45: 2; A72-0024/001–2, King’s College council minutes, 1828–42; A72-0050/002, especially Young to J. Joseph, December 1836; report of building committee, 2 Dec. 1843; Young to Boys, 20 Dec. 1843. UWOL, Regional Coll., Huron County, Ont., Clerk of the Peace, court-house building committee records, 1839–40. “The Brock Monument,” Canadian Journal (Toronto), 1 (1852–53): 22. Minutes of the Simcoe District Municipal Council, 1843–1847 (Barrie, Ont., 1895). “New plan of Toronto,” British Colonist (Toronto), 29 Aug. 1851. Univ. of Toronto, Commission of Inquiry into the Affairs of King’s College University and Upper Canada College, Final report (Quebec, 1852). British Colonist (Toronto), 13 Sept. 1838; 29 May 1839; 2 Dec. 1845; 2, 27 July 1847; 27 March 1849. Church, 21 Oct. 1842. Daily Leader (Toronto), 4 Oct. 1860. Examiner (Toronto), 14 June, 13 Dec. 1848. Globe, 8 Sept., 4 Oct. 1860. Hamilton Spectator, and Journal of Commerce, 9 Oct. 1847. Herald (Toronto), 17 March, 16 May 1842; 15 June 1843; 9 Sept. 1844. Independent (Toronto), 1 Nov. 1849–17 April 1850. Toronto Patriot, 1 May 1835; 3, 27 May 1836; 19 Feb. 1841. Weekly Mercury (Guelph, [Ont.]), 8 March 1866. Landmarks of Canada; what art has done for Canadian history . . . (2v., Toronto, 1917–21; repr. in 1v., 1967). Toronto directory, 1837; 1843: 81; 1846–47: 82; 1850–51: lxxv–lxxvi, 141. William Dendy, Lost Toronto (Toronto, 1978). Ralph Greenhill et al., Ontario towns ([Ottawa, 1974]), plate 21. MacRae and Adamson, Cornerstones of order. MacRae et al., Hallowed walls.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Shirley G. Morriss, “YOUNG, THOMAS (d. 1860),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 25, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/young_thomas_1860_8E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/young_thomas_1860_8E.html
Author of Article:   Shirley G. Morriss
Title of Article:   YOUNG, THOMAS (d. 1860)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   April 25, 2024