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Maxwell Bates

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1147

William Stanley Bates Residence, 734 13th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1147

I was very lucky to have been able to attend the Historical Society of Alberta Conference at the end of May. One of the speakers there was Nancy Townshend who was talking about her ancestor Colonel James Macleod and his homes. This put me in mind of another architectural subject that she had presented to us at a library program. Her topic that night was Maxwell Bates, an often overlooked Calgary artist and architect.
Maxwell Bates was the son of a famous Calgary architect, William Stanley Bates, who was a partner in the firms that designed some of Calgary’s early buildings such as the Grain Exchange, the Beveridge Building and the Burns Building.
Maxwell was born in Calgary in 1906 and started working for his father’s firm when he was eighteen. He attended evening art classes at the Provincial Institute of Art and Technology in the 1920s and then went to England where he worked as an architect and developed his style as a painter. In 1939 he joined the British Territorial Army and in 1941 was captured by the Germans and was sent to a POW camp where he remained until the end of the war. His account of his time in the camp, Wilderness of Days can be found at the Calgary Public Library, both in the Arts collection and the Community Heritage and Family History collection (940.547243 BAT B). Excerpts can be found on the website, which also contains biographical information, other writings and samples of his designs among other things.

Bates returned to Calgary in 1946 and became an architect, while he continued to pursue his art. His most notable contribution to the Calgary skyline is the beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral, built between 1954 and 1957 and shown in this picture:

AJ 25-10

Entrance to new St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-10

If you are interested in Maxwell Bates, there are some excellent resources available at the Calgary Public Library including Ms Townshend’s book Maxwell Bates: Canada’s Premier Expressionist(759.11 BAT T). They can be found in the library catalogue using Bates, Maxwell as a subject search. If you are interested in other architects who worked in Calgary, we have an invaluable resource by Marianne Fedori and Lorne Simpson entitled The Practice of Architecture and Construction in Calgary 1900-1940 (720.9712338 PRA – available in the local history room). If you would like to have a look at some of the buildings designed by these architects, check out the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. The link is to the left.


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