ERA is currently studying the above house by Grant Whatmough, designed for Canadian Homes and Gardens managing editor Gerald Maccabe in 1956. The Maccabe house is an example of the many early modernist ‘gems’ which are only now being rediscovered in the suburbs around the Greater Toronto Area.
Born in Toronto, Whatmough served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and studied in England after the war. Upon graduation he practiced in Portsmouth as a Naval Architect, before returning to work in Canada. His career as a designer combined interests in technical innovations and modern aesthetics with a practicability that allowed him to execute a wide range of design and construction projects.
From 1953 onward Whatmough worked independently as an Architect in Ontario. His focus was on suburban and estate homes, though he also completed a number of commercial projects. Not satisfied with established building contractors, Whatmough also founded a small construction company to execute his commissions. He revisited his earlier interest in marine design in completing a floating offshore drilling rig, tug and fire boats, and a research vessel for Radar Explorations Limited of Toronto. Commercial projects included industrial plants in Oakville, Port Credit and Islington, studios for an Oakville radio station and alterations to retail stores.
Available records show that Whatmough’s commissions focused in the areas of Oakville, Burlington, and Milton. He also designed a number of commercial buildings in Toronto. However, more research is required to establish a complete record of his career.
In honour of Whatmough, this week at ERA our Friday afternoon social hour became Friday afternoon at the movies: we watched an episode of the 1957 CBC program Open House that George had unearthed from the CBC Archives. The show featured interviews with three of Whatmough’s clients, including the Maccabes, and tours of three of his houses. It also included the mandatory posed, awkward shots of the architect in his studio, redrawing existing lines (with OAA certification propped conveniently on the drafting table) and leaning down to consider a model of his own work.
Favorite line from the episode: “Your pool is very inviting Jim, but so is your wife’s tea.”
Two other houses designed by Whatmough can be found near the Maccabe House, on Argyle and Barrington streets. The house on Argyle Drive, which looks on to Lake Ontario, was designed for Jim Floyd – lead designer of the (in)famously abandoned Avro Arrow.