Maxwell Dewar Residence

Edmonton, Alberta

The Maxwell Dewar Residence on the Inventory of Historic Resources

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The Dewar Residence is located in the neighbourhood of Cromdale. The original neighbourhood was Virginia Park. The original address was 7721 112 Avenue and was later changed to 7721 112 Avenue South. The residence is located south of historic Borden Park and along the edge of the Rat Creek Ravine, part of Edmonton’s River Valley Kinnaird Ravine.

Maxwell Dewar
Maxwell Cameron Dewar was born in 1907 in Glasgow, Scotland. He emigrated to Canada in 1921 with both his parents and most of his brothers and sisters.  “After technical school, he studied with Cecil Burgess, who ran the architecture program at the University of Alberta, such as it was.  There was no degree program at the university until the early 1930s – like other professions, such as law, architectural training had its origins outside the university – but Burgess had taught courses in architecture since 1913, and he oversaw the certification of qualified practitioners through the university and the Alberta Association of Architects.  In this capacity, he taught and mentored a large number of the province’s architects.  My father registered in the AAA in 1930 and received his certification the following year” (Kenneth Dewar).

Dewar was registered in the Alberta Association of Architects on June 4, 1930 (Canadian Architectural Archives). During this time he worked at the City of Edmonton under the direction of City Architect John Martland. From 1943 to 1949, Dewar was the City Architect and Chief Building Inspector. He was responsible for the city buildings that were constructed at the time, which include:

1937 Rossdale Power Plant Pumping Station #1 and Addition;
1946 Mill Creek School;
1946 Delton School;
1947 Virginia Park School;
1947 Churchill Wire Centre

1949 Victoria Composite High School. “Designed in a distinctly modern mode, marked by the flat roofs and clean horizontal massing of its components, and broken by the vertical mass of the school auditorium, it has been described by historians David Murray and Marianne Fedori as “one of the finest buildings [in Edmonton] from the 1940s.” In recognition, my father received one of five awards for outstanding schools in North America presented by the American School Publishing Corporation in 1952.” (Kenneth Dewar).

“He (Dewar) played a leading role in encouraging the city to establish a planning department.  Without one, the potential for a repetition of the chaos of early twentieth century urban development was considerable in the oil-driven boom years of postwar Alberta.  The city needed to anticipate new roads, parks, playgrounds, and shopping centres as the economy grew.  By the time he left the city in 1949, a city planner (Noel Dant) had been appointed.  He also pursued the idea of developing a city square that would serve as a nucleus around which buildings, such as a civic auditorium, would be constructed, and which would keep alive the ancient communitarian ideal of civic sociability in a time of rapid expansion” (Kenneth Dewar).

Maxwell Dewar was elected president of the Alberta Association of Architects for 3 sequential years, 1945, 1946 and 1947. He went on to serve on the AAA Council. He was Council Member-at-large in 1949. He was the second vice-president in 1950.

On November 30, 1949, Maxwell Dewar resigned from the City after publicly criticizing City Council on their Civic Centre Plan.  He went into private practice as a partner with the firm Dewar, Cawston and Stevenson, 1949-51. Then it became Dewar Stevenson Stanley, 1951-55. Almost the entire staff of the department followed Dewar into his private practice. Those who joined him were architect Doris Tanner, engineer Benny Peterson, draftsmen Jack Bolander and Tom Erwin.  His secretary Peggy Goodenough followed later.

While in private practice, the firm was responsible for a number of notable Edmonton buildings, including:

1952 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, Red Cross House
195? Avonmore United Church (demolished)
1952 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, St. Stephen’s College
1953 B,C. Coast Woods Trend House
1953 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, Exhibition Stadium
1953 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, Baker Clinic
1954 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, Army and Navy Store on Whyte Avenue
1954 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, J.H. Picard HS
1955 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, Quarter Master’s Stores, Griesbach
1957 Dewar Stevenson Stanley, Edmonton City Hall

Maxwell Dewar died prematurely on April 1, 1955 and is considered to be the designer and partner-in-charge of the first Edmonton City Hall, which was completed in 1957. This could be considered his crowning achievement.

The Dewar Family Residence
Maxwell Dewar designed his own family home in 1940. It has been placed on the Edmonton Inventory of Historic Resources and is located at 7721 112 Avenue South. The 1940 residence of Maxwell and Mary Dewar is significant for its vernacular (common) Bungalow Style, which with its 1949 addition is now considered an expanded version of the common Bungalow Style. Although seemingly ordinary, it is an early representation of the style of architecture that would become predominant in the post-war period into the 1950s.  It is simple, economical and well-composed. In this frugal period following the Great Depression and entering the WW2 period the Style is represented by compact design, the elimination of roof eaves, a generous sloping roof and simple, economical cladding materials such as stucco. The addition to this residence shows the touch of a talented architect with its expansive plan to accommodate a growing family. The centerpiece of the addition is a generous living room with a fireplace, piano niche, vaulted and paneled ceiling that may be reminiscent of Dewar’s traditional Scottish roots.

The Neighbourhood
The heritage value of Dewar Residence is associated with the development of the Virginia Park and Cromdale Neighbourhoods. The building permits indicate that this was, at one time, the Virginia Park neighbourhood. At some time after 1965, this location on the north side of the Kinnaird Ravine was incorporated into Cromdale, which is one of Edmonton’s oldest inner city neighbourhoods, along with Virginia park, Bellevue and the Highlands. Its development began soon after a streetcar line was extended from the city’s central business district east along Jasper Avenue, north on Kinnaird Street (82nd Street), and then east again on Pine Avenue (112th Avenue).  For decades, Cromdale was a predominantly low-density residential neighbourhood. During the 1960s, Cromdale’s proximity to the downtown and its good transportation linkages spurred a second major development phase in the neighbourhood.

The odd shape of the neighbourhood is due to one of its major features, the Kinnaird Ravine. The ravine, terminating in the North Saskatchewan River valley, winds its way through the middle of the neighbourhood and ends at the CNR/LRT right-of-way on Cromdale’s northwestern boundary.

Cromdale, meaning “crooked valley,” is also the name of a place in Scotland. The neighbourhood has had many names over its lifetime, including the aptly named “View Point.”