Is an historically influential style, with many prominent examples. The Gothic Revival was imported to Canada from Britain and the United States in the early 19th century, and rose to become the most popular style for major projects throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Gothic Revival period lasted longer and was more thoroughly embraced in Canada than in either Britain or the United States, only falling out of style in the 1930s. The late 19th and early 20th centuries was also the period when many major Canadian institutions were founded. Throughout Canada many of the most prominent religious, civic, and scholastic institutions are housed in Gothic Revival style buildings. In the 1960s and 1970s several scholars, most notably Alan Gowans, embraced Canadian Gothic Revival architecture as one of the nation's signature styles and as an integral part of Canadian nationalism. While largely abandoned in the modernist period, several postmodern architects have embraced Canada's neo-Gothic past.
Introduction to Canada
Gothic Architecture is a name given in retrospect to many of the major projects of the High Middle Ages. As this period covered the 13th and 14th centuries, there are no authentic Gothic buildings in Canada. The style was quite out of favour in the 17th century, when Europeans first began erecting structures in Canada, and the style is absent from the early settlements in New France and the Maritimes.
In the 18th century, a growing spirit of Romanticism and interest in the Medieval past led to a revival of Gothic styles in Britain. The style made its way to Canada in the early 19th century. One of the first appearances is in an 1811 proposal by Jeffry Wyatt for a new legislature in Quebec City. One of the first major Gothic Revival structures in Canada was Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, which was designed in 1824 by the Irish-American James O'Donnell. The largest church in North America upon its completion, it was one of the first architectural works of international note to be built in Canada. It was also one of the first Catholic Gothic Revival structures, as the movement would not spread from Britain to France and continental Europe until several years later. As the most prominent church in the colony its form was much imitated by local church builders, who constructed miniature versions of the basilica across Quebec.
Protestants also embraced the style. As early as the late 18th century, certain Gothic elements had appeared in a church in Nova Scotia, though the Georgian and Neo-classical styles remained dominant for several decades. The first stone neo-Gothic structure in the Maritimes is St. John's Church in Saint John, New Brunswick. It dates to 1824, the same year work began on Notre-Dame. In the 1830s and 1840s four prominent neo-Gothic Churches were built in Quebec City, representing each of that city's major Protestant denominations.
By the 1840s the Gothic Revival style had become virtually universal among Anglicans and used for most other Christian denominations as well. As in much of the English speaking world the lancet windows and buttresses of the Gothic Revival style soon became permanently associated in most people's mind with ecclesiastical buildings. It was soon also embraced for secular purposes as well, such as government buildings and universities. Canadian universities modeled themselves on the great British universities, Oxford and Cambridge, and this extended to embracing the Gothic architecture used in their construction. Two of the first Gothic Revival colleges were Trinity College in Toronto and Bishop's University in Quebec.The gothic revival architecture became very popular throughout Canada and the U.S and has been known for years
Victorian High Gothic
In the later half of the 19th century, Gothic Revival architecture became the dominant style for major Canadian buildings. As the style became accepted and popular, architects became more willing to experiment and modify its conventions. While previous Gothic Revival architects had attempted to closely recapture the style of the Middle Ages, the new architects retained the Medieval motifs, but recombined them in entirely new ways.
One of the most important examples of this style anywhere in the world were the Parliament Buildings designed by Thomas Fuller. While the style and design of the building is unquestionably Gothic, it resembles no building constructed during the Middle Ages. The forms were the same, but their arrangement was uniquely modern. The Parliament Buildings also departed from Medieval models by integrating a variety of eras and styles of Gothic architecture, including elements of Gothic architecture from Britain, France, the Low Countries, and Italy all in one building.
In his Hand Book to the Parliamentary and Departmental Buildings, Canada (1867), Joseph Bureau wrote, "The style of the Buildings is the Gothic of the 12th and 13th Centuries, with modification to suit the climate of Canada. The ornamental work and the dressing round the windows are of Ohio sandstone. The plain surface is faced with a cream-colored sandstone of the Potsdam formation, obtained from Nepean, a few miles from Ottawa. The spandrils of the arches, and the spaces between window-arches and the sills of the upper windows, are filled up with a quaint description of stonework, composed of stones of irregular size, shape and colour, very neatly set together."