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John Marshall Hunter (1881-1942)

John Marshall Hunter was another architect with Scottish origins who would contribute to the built heritage of Prince Edward Island.  He was born on March 6, 1881 in Lennoxtown, a community located north of Glasgow.  His training as an architect began in 1899 when, at eighteen, he apprenticed with the architectural firm of David Woodburn Sturrock in Glasgow.  He remained with this firm for four years and also attended night classes at both the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College (now the University of Strathclyde).

By 1903, Hunter began a second period of apprenticeship, this time with the architectural firm of Clarke, Bell, and Craigie.  This experience gave him the opportunity to work on some major projects in Glasgow, including the Grosvenor Building on Gordon Street and the Justiciary Court Houses.  The Grosvenor Building had suffered a fire which had left only the exterior facade standing.  This experience of renovating a fire damaged building, was to be useful for Hunter when he later came to Prince Edward Island.  In November of 1910, he moved to Canada, joining the Canadian Pacific Railway Architect's Department in Montreal.  In 1911, he received a professional accolade, when he became a Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

His relationship with the Island began in the wake of the devastating fire in March 1913 at St. Dunstan's Cathedral in Charlottetown.  He was by now employed by a private firm in Montreal and they won the contract to rebuild the cathedral.  Hunter became the principal architect for this massive project.  The work of rebuilding would take six years, during which time, he located his offices in the Morris Building in Victoria Row.  Now known as St. Dunstan's Basilica, this French Gothic style church remains a monument to the talent of Hunter and is a National Historic Site.  In addition to redesigning the interior, he extended the twin spires on either side of the entrance and added a dramatic rose window above the altar.

Hunter made his home at 15 Grafton Street in Charlottetown, which had been designed in 1895 by William Critchlow Harris. During this time, Hunter established a lasting personal and professional friendship with Charles Benjamin Chappell, a prominent Charlottetown based architect.  Together, they would design or rehabilitate many commercial, religious, and residential buildings in the province.


Despite the extensive work of rebuilding the cathedral, Hunter collaborated with Chappell on several other projects. These included the Arts and Crafts style homes at 90 Brighton Road and 94 Brighton Road in Charlottetown, both dating from 1915. In 1916, he completed the large Colonial Revival style Duff House in Charlottetown. In 1917, he designed the new Dalton Hall dormitory for St. Dunstan's College (and later modified the dormers in 1931). And in 1919, he worked on the elaborate McNichol House in Cardigan.

In the 1920s, Chappell and Hunter completed projects in Summerside which were made possible by the wealth generated by the Silver Fox fur industry. The three-storey brick building at 292 Water Street was constructed as the headquarters of the Canadian Silver Fox Breeders' Association in 1927. Meanwhile, the large Colonial Revival style home for businessman, Melville Bradshaw, was also completed at 197 Central Street that year. Other large homes in Summerside, such as the Holman House at 57 Summer Street, were renovated by Chappell and Hunter during this period.

Another devastating church fire in 1929 destroyed the interior of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Souris. This had been designed by W.C. Harris and completed in 1902. Once again, Hunter found himself rehabilitating an Island church damaged by fire. He remained true to most of Harris' original sandstone design, however, he did modify some elements including the addition of an octagonal Baroque style cap on the tower, instead of the former spire.

John Marshall Hunter was active in the social life of his adopted province. He attended Charlottetown's Kirk of St. James and his family was closely connected to that of another ex-patriot Scot, James Robertson Burnett (1871-1952), the editor of The Guardian newspaper. Burnett gave the paper its enduring motto: "Covers Prince Edward Island Like the Dew." Arguably, it could be said that this motto also aptly describes Hunter's own legacy as an important architect in PEI's history. He passed away on July 2, 1942 and rests in Charlottetown's People's Cemetery.

The research of Dr. Jack Whytock of the Institute of Island Architectural Studies and Conservation is gratefully acknowledged as contributing to this biographical sketch.

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