Mid-Century Architecture in Victoria From the University of Victoria Special Collections and University Archives

John Wade and Partners

Wade project index

The Wade Williams fonds at the UVic Archives encompasses the records of a succession of architectural firms through which John Howard Wade was the constant. These are:

Birley and Wade (1945-1946)

Birley Wade and Stockdill (1946-1950)

Wade and Stockdill (1950-1953)

Wade Stockdill and Armour (1953-1964)

Wade Stockdill Armour and Blewett (1964-1974)

Wade Williams (1974-1991)

The various firms in which John Wade was a partner were largely responsible for bringing the International Style to Victoria in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Three schools designed by Wade's firms – Central (1280 Fort Street, 1950), S. J. Willis (923 Topaz Avenue, 1952) and Lansdowne (1765 Lansdowne Road, 1953) – demonstrate a strong adherence to Bauhaus principles. The Medical Arts Building (1105 Pandora Avenue, 1953) is similarly International in style. This building is currently being converted into condominiums which will be known as "The Wade."

John Howard Wade (1914-1991)

John Howard Wade was born 23 March 1914 in Singapore (then part of the Straits Settlements). Educated at Bedford School in England, Wade graduated from the Architectural Association in 1936, shortly thereafter began work with Connell Ward and Lucas in London, and in 1938 became a junior partner with Guy Morgan and Partners. While at Morgan, Wade was responsible for designing a factory for Phillips and Powis Aircraft. In 1939 Wade immigrated to Canada, settling in Vancouver where he got a job with Edmund Dewitt King (1885-1969). On 25 November 1939 Wade married Margaret Towle Taylor (1916-2003), the daughter of Alfred James Towle Taylor (1887-1945), the engineer and businessman responsible for building Vancouver's Lion's Gate Bridge. For two months in the summer of 1939 Wade worked in California for Richard Neutra. After War broke out in September 1939, Wade left his job as an architect and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. Wade served five years as a Lieutenant-Commander, R.C.N.R., including three afloat aboard destroyers, minesweepers, and corvettes. While in the Navy Wade met Studley Patrick Birley who was also an architect. Following the War Wade had intended to return to Guy Morgan and Partners in London, however, Lord Beaverbrook (William Aitken) suggested he remain in Canada due to conditions in England. Wade was then approached by Birley about forming a new practice, which they did, naming it Birley and Wade. A few months later Charles Dexter Stockdill – a 1938 graduate of the University of Manitoba – joined the firm, which became Birley Wade and Stockdill. In 1950 Birley left the firm. Wade and Stockdill subsequently added two partners: John W. Armour (1927-1986) in 1953, and Peter Blewett (1932-1999) in 1964. In 1974 Wade Stockdill Armour and Blewett split into separate Victoria and Vancouver branches. The Victoria branch became known as Wade Williams, adding as a partner British-born architect Terence John Williams, who had joined the firm in 1971. 

John and Margaret had four children: sons Matthew, Simon, and Andrew, and daughter Margo. The Wades lived in a 1922 house at 1538 Beach Drive in Oak Bay, named Bide-a-Wee, which was designed by Samuel Maclure. John Wade retired in 1991 and died in Victoria on 3 November 1997 at age 83.

Studley Patrick Birley (1904-1962)

Patrick Birley was born 17 March 1904 in Swinton, Lancashire. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1927 and a Master of Arts in Latin in 1929, both from Trinity College, University of Cambridge. In 1929 he married Patience Hilda Lloyd and the following year the Birleys immigrated to Canada, settling in Victoria. Patrick got a job teaching math at Brentwood College, but shortly thereafter began apprenticing as an architect, first with Spurgin and Johnson, and subsequently with John Graham Johnson alone. In 1936 he formed his own architectural practice. Significant projects from this period include the Sussex Hotel (1000 Douglas Street, 1937) and the Athlone Apartments (895 Academy Close, 1940). During World War II Birley served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, working at Esquimalt in the Building Construction and Maintenance Division. While in the Navy he met John Howard Wade and following decommission the two men formed an architectural partnership, which Dexter Stockdill joined in March 1946. Birley left the firm in 1950 and later formed partnerships with Ian Simpson in 1955 and Donald Wagg in 1958. Patrick Birley died 29 July 1962 in Victoria at age 58.

Charles Dexter Stockdill

Dexter Stockdill graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1938. During his summers while in school he worked for John Graham Johnson in Victoria. Out of school he got a job with Northwood and Chivers in Edmonton where he stayed for a short time, and then with McCarter and Nairne in Vancouver. In 1939 Stockdill went into partnership with Johnson called Johnson and Stockdill. The partnership lasted until 1943 and significant projects included the Arthur Latham House (3040 Uplands Road, 1939) and the John Hodges House (2680 Queenswood Drive, 1940). In March 1946 Stockdill joined the new firm Birley and Wade, which became Birley Wade and Stockdill. Throughout the late 1940s, the 1950s, and 1960s Stockdill served as the design chief for the firm and was responsible for many of Victoria's modernist buildings. In 1939 Stockdill married Joyce Varley of Winnipeg. Their son Charles Peter (born 1941) became a prominent ophthalmologist, and their other son James Dexter became a general practitioner. After Joyce's death (ca. 1960), Dexter remarried in 1963 to Joan Drummond Taylor (1922-2005), the younger sister of John Wade's wife Margaret.

John W. Armour (1927-1986)

John Armour was born in Victoria and began his architectural career articling with Birley Wade and Stockdill in 1946. In 1953 he became a full partner. In 1961 he and Peter Blewett opened a second firm in Vancouver. When the firm split into separate Victoria and Vancouver branches in 1974, the Vancouver branch was named Armour Blewett and Partners. John Armour died in 1986 at age 59.

Peter Blewett (1932-1999)

Peter Blewett was born 28 September 1932 in Swansea, Wales. In 1954 he graduated from the Canterbury School of Architecture and in 1957 immigrated to Canada, settling in Vancouver. In 1960 he joined Wade Stockdill and Armour and in 1964 became a partner with the firm. Blewett and Armour also established a second practice in Vancouver. When WSAB split into separate Victoria and Vancouver branches in 1974, Blewett remained with the Vancouver firm, which became Armour Blewett and Partners. The firm later added partner Selwyn Dodd and became Blewett Dodd Ching Lee (1977-1993), Blewett Dodd Canada (1993-1996), and finally Blewett Dodd Architecture (1996-1999). Blewett was also an accomplished acrylic painter. He died on 25 November 1999 in Vancouver at age 67.

Terence John Williams (1942-)

Terry Williams was born 7 August 1942 in London, England. He was educated at St Joseph's School (London), St Patrick's School (Bristol), and finally St Brendan's College (Bristol), from which he graduated in 1959. In 1965 he earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Bath. Following graduation Williams worked in Helsinki, London, and New York. In 1969 Williams joined Wade Stockdill Armour and Blewett's Vancouver branch and during his time there designed the Kapilano 100 office tower (100 Park Royal South). Two years later he moved to the Victoria branch with Wade and that same year he became a partner in the firm. When WSAB broke into separate Victoria and Vancouver branches in 1974 the Victoria branch became known as Wade Williams. After John Wade retired in 1991, Williams continued the practice as Terence Williams Architect. Williams is a past president of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, former Chancellor of the College of Fellows of the RAIC, and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture. He is a founding director of the Canada Green Building Council.

Williams recently completed a remodel of Dexter Stockdill's former house at 1552 Clive Drive in Oak Bay, which was designed by John Di Castri.

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