Who Was Kivas Tully?


Who was Kivas Tully you might ask. Tully was an noted early architect (1820-1905), his name might not be familiar to most, but his designs, mostly public buildings we easily recognize. The Church of St. Peter, an Anglican Church on King Street East in Cobourg Ontario, had it’s beginning in 1851 to replace a building erected in 1820. Distinguished by the stepped battlements of it’s facade, the new building was designed in early Gothic Revival style by the noted architect Kivas Tully. After a plan alteration, St. Peter’s was constructed by contractor Samuel Retallick and gradually encased the earlier church which was then dismantled.

The Trenton Town Hall in 1860 was designed in the Classical Revival style with Greek and Roman influences so popular in the mid 19th century buildings. The Town Hall was a multi use facility housing municipal offices, farmer’s market and lock-ups. The Lakefield Christ Church was built originally on Queen Street of limestone, in a Gothic Revival style in the 1850’s. Samuel Strickland led the efforts to get the church, designed by Kivas Tully. Land was donated by Zaccheus Burnham. Within a decade Christ Church proved to be too small for the growing congregation. Because the burial ground here was on consecrated land, a new church, St. John the Baptist Church was built on the opposite side of Queen Street. Port Hope’s St. John’s Anglican Church, later named St. Mark’s on King Street was constructed in 1851.

One of Tully’s few and best private home designs was ‘Sidbrook’ located on 100 acres of land on King Street East in Cobourg in 1857. Sidbrook Villa was built for Henry Mason, whose name was connected to the founding of the Cobourg to Peterborough Railway Company in 1852. Originally a two storey, flat roofed brick Villa built by Tully, the architect known for St. Peter’s Church and Victoria Hall also in Cobourg. Later owned by Major David Campbell, John Vance Gravely and later William Abbott of Pittsburgh, USA. Abbott was an associate of Andrew Carnegie. The building was later sold as a Private Chronic Pain Care Hospital (Sidbrook Private Hospital) and since early 2000 it has remained vacant.

Cobourg Ontario is home to Kivas Tully’s greatest and lasting work, Victoria Hall, located in the centre of town on King Street . In the early 1850’s the leading citizens decided to express their confidence in the future of their town by “building themselves a fine town hall”. They held a design competition which was won by Kivas Tully. From 1856, when the cornerstone was laid by Sir Allan MacNab until 1860 when it was opened, the building was under construction by local builders David and William Burnett. Edward, the young Prince of Wales, the future King Edward V11 came to Cobourg during his Canadian tour in 1860, he officially opened Victoria Hall, which was named for his mother Queen Victoria.

Kivas Tully was an architect and civil engineer born in Garryvacum, northeast of Port Laoise in the Republican of Ireland. Tully acquire part of his education at the Royal Naval School in Camberwell in London, England, before returning to Ireland for four years of professional training under W.H. Owen, an architect and civil engineer in Limerick. His first job was to assist George Wilkinson, an architect for the Irish Poor-Law commissioners in erecting workhouses In 1844 Tully arrived in Toronto Ontario, it was in this year he married Elizabeth Drew, who died three years later. In 1852 he married Elizabeth Strickland, who died in 1883.

Tully started his own practice and secured commissions for the prestigious Bank of Montreal and the custom-house, both at Young and Front Streets and for a breakwater at the city’s garrison. Between 1845 and 1850 he submitted designs in competition, including Toronto’s Commercial Bank of the Midland District, St, Michael’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Knox’s Presbyterian Church, St. Lawrence Hall, St. James’ Anglican Cathedral, and St. James parish school, in addition to municipal buildings in Niagrara-on-the-Lake, Peterborough and St. Catharines. Only at St. Catharines was he successful for the Town Hall and Market House at King and James Streets and the Pendergast Block at St. Paul and William Streets. Tully was successful however in winning commissions in 1851 for Trinity College on Queen Street in Toronto, the Welland County Court-House at Merrittsville and in 1852 for Cobourg’s Town Hall. These buildings allowed him to exercise his fine sense of formal composition and scale and his ability to work in the Classical and Gothic Revival styles very fashionable at the time. Cobourg’s Victoria Hall in Cobourg remains today as Tully’s best-known work.

Following Confederation, Tully joined the new Ontario Department of Public Works, under this position he was appointed the departments architect, engineer and chief officer. Projects Tully undertook included the Ontario Institution for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb in 1869 at Belleville, an insane asylum at London (1869), an insane asylum at London(1869), the Ontario Institution for the Education and Instruction of the Blind in1870 in Brantford, the Central Prison in Toronto, 1871, an insane asylum in Hamilton in 1873, and the Andrew Mercer Ontario Reformatory for Females in 1878 in Toronto, as well as major additions to Osgoode Hall in 1876.

The government’s decision 1860 to build new parliament buildings in Queen’s Park, Tully put forward alternative designs, one in a Gothic style, much like the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and another in an eclectic mix of Second Empire and Classical styles. These plans were set aside by the government in favour of an architectural competition. However, the commissioner of public works relegated Tully to an advisory and administration role only.

During the last decade of his career, until he retired in1896, Tully saw the completion of the Parliament

Buildings in 1893, the court-houses in North Bay(1888) and Gore Bay in 1889 as well as the extensive Brockville asylum. Tully was involved in the formation of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, and was the first president of the Engineer’s Club of Toronto. Tully was also a member of the Toronto and the Ontario Society of Arts and Artist for many years, was a member of the Church of England, had a lifelong interest in freemasony, served twice on Toronto City Council, a member of the Public School Board, and was a keen cricketer. Tully died in 1905. From Biography-Kivas Tully- Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Regards, Ranger

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