William Fraser (architect)

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William Fraser
Born24 October 1867
Died14 June 1922(1922-06-14) (aged 54)
Lochgilphead, Argyll, Scotland

William Fraser, ARIBA (24 October 1867 – 14 June 1922) was a Scottish-born architect, prominent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who initially practiced in Great Britain and then in Canada until his death in 1922.[1]

Early life

Born in the town of Lochgilphead, Argyll, in western Scotland, Fraser was the second of eight children born to The Reverend William Fraser (1824 – 1892),[2] Minister (Christianity)|minister of the Free Church of Scotland (1843–1900)|Free Church of Scotland in Lochgilphead,[3][4][5] and Violet Ferguson (1835 – 1888).[6][7]


Fraser initially studied at the University of Glasgow[7] and then the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), where he studied architecture for two years. In the 1887–88 GSA session, he won first prize for architectural design and a Glasgow Institute of Architects Prize. In September 1888, the Science and Art Department, which promoted education in art, science, technology and design in Britain and Ireland, awarded him a free studentship for the full 1888–89 GSA session "on account of the Excellence of the Works submitted by him to the Department this Year, in competition for the National Medals and Queen's Prize".


Fraser's first major solo project was the Burns Memorial and Cottage Homes, which officially opened in Mauchline, Scotland, in 1898 Fraser's Dunoon Pavilion, which opened in 1905, was a local landmark in the Scottish town Fraser is credited with the design of the Lillian Massey Building, which was built between 1908 and 1912 for the University of Toronto's Household Science program Fraser designed the Dunoon Primary School in 1899

From 1883 to 1888, Fraser apprenticed with the architecture firm of John McLeod in Glasgow.[8] In 1889, Fraser moved to London where he served as assistant to architect William Warlow Gwyther[9] and in 1891 was elected as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA).[7]

In 1896, Fraser established an independent architecture practice in Glasgow and in the same year won the competition to design the Burns Memorial and Cottage Homes in the town of Mauchline, East Ayrshire, to honour Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns, who rented Mossgiel Farm near Mauchline from 1784 to 1788 where he composed many of his best known works.[10][11]

The Memorial, which was completed in 1898 and now is commonly called the National Burns Memorial, features a tower designed in the Scottish Baronial architectural style[12][13] and cottages that "were intended as a permanent living memorial to the poet symbolising his sympathy for the genuinely unfortunate".[14] Today, the tower houses a contemporary art gallery,[15] while the cottages continue to provide accommodation and facilities for elderly residents.[16]

In 1897, Fraser was commissioned to design a commemorative water fountain in Lochgilphead in memory of his older brother Dr. Alexander Rodger Fraser (1865 - 1894) who, while serving as a resident physician with the Bengal Collieries of the British East India Company in Bengal, India, contracted tuberculosis and died at the Gulf of Suez on his way home and was buried at sea.[17]

In 1898, Fraser settled in the town of Dunoon, Argyll, where he was commissioned to design several public buildings, including: the Dunoon Grammar School (now the Dunoon Primary School and a :Category B listed building);[18] and the Dunoon Pavilion, which was officially opened on 17 August 1905 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll and her husband John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll. The Pavilion, which included a multi-purpose public-meeting and concert hall that could seat 1,000 people, a restaurant and shops, was destroyed by fire in 1949.[19][20] Today's Queen's Hall stands on the site.[21]

In 1907, Fraser and his family emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where he joined the architecture firm of George M. Miller as an associate and worked on projects for the influential Massey family and "where he was credited with the design of the Deaconess' Home, St. Clair Avenue West (1908–09) and the refined Beaux-Arts scheme for the School of Household Science", which is now called the Lillian Massey Building.[22]

In 1911, Fraser established an independent architecture practice specializing in the design of educational buildings and private homes. One of his largest commissions was for the Anderson Building in downtown Toronto.[23]

Fraser was contracted by the Government of Canada to provide architectural services for the rebuilding of Halifax, Nova Scotia|Halifax, Nova Scotia, after the Halifax Explosion devastated the city on 6 December 1917, when the French munitions ship SS Mont-Blanc exploded in Halifax harbor, killing approximately 2,000 people.

Fraser worked for two years in Halifax, where he designed two public schools and a Bank of Nova Scotia building, but while there he fell ill from cancer and had to return to Toronto in 1921. He died on 14 June 1922, aged 54, and was interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.[24]

Personal life

Fraser married Maud Marion Timpson in Dunoon, Argyll, in 1898, and they initially settled in the town. They had three children,[7] one of whom (Fred; 1910 – 1993) became a Major in the Victoria Rifles of Canada.[25]

Maud Timpson survived her husband by 45 years; she died in 1967, aged 92.[26]


  1. William Fraser, Architect, Dictionary of Scottish Architects
  2. William Fraser at Find A Grave
  3. Scotland free church, gen. assembly (1867) - Google Books
  4. Oliver & Boyd's new Edinburgh almanac and national repository (1886) - Google Books
  5. The Free Church of Scotland Monthly - February, 1893, Obituary, p.43, written by Rev. Duncan McNicol, Dunoon
  6. Violet Fraser at Find A Grave
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 William Fraser at ScottishArchitects.org.uk
  8. John McLeod, Architect”, Dictionary of Scottish Architects
  9. William Warlow Gwyther, Architect, Dictionary of Scottish Architects
  10. Burns Memorial Tower, Mauchline, Ayrshire, Scottish Heritage
  11. National Burns Memorial - Mauchline, AYRSHIREHISTORY.COM
  12. Mauchline, Burns Monument, Cottage Home, CANMORE, National Record of the Historic Environment, Historic Environment Scotland
  13. Burns Memorial Tower, Mauchline, Future Museum, a partnership between East Ayrshire Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, North Ayrshire Council, South Ayrshire Council and the independent museums of the south-west of Scotland
  14. History of the Homes, The National Burns Memorial Homes Trust
  15. New gallery officially opened in Mauchline, East Ayrshire Council
  16. The National Burns Memorial Homes, The National Burns Memorial Homes Trust
  17. Lochgilphead, Commemorative Monument, Fountain, CANMORE, National Record of the Historic Environment, Historic Environment Scotland
  18. Hillfoot Street, Dunoon Primary School And Janitor's House, Historic Environment Scotland
  19. Pavilion at Dunoon, Dictionary of Scottish Architects
  20. The Dunoon Pavilion Fire, Dunoon Fire Service Centenary – 1889-1989
  21. Dunoon regeneration - Queens Hall Project - Argyll and Bute Council's website
  22. Fraser, William, Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada – 1800- 1950
  23. Heritage Property Research and Evaluation Report, Anderson Building, 284 King Street West, Toronto, Heritage Preservation Services, City Planning Division, City of Toronto
  24. William Fraser at Find A Grave
  25. MAJ Frederick William "Fred" Fraser at Find A Grave
  26. Maud Marion Fraser at Find A Grave

External links

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