Ex­cel­lent work still shines

Liv­ing in a city rich in his­tory and his­tor­i­cal build­ings, ar­chi­tect Lily Inglis aimed her sights on her­itage con­ser­va­tion in Kingston

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FORUM - SU­SANNA MCLEOD

Un­well and tucked into her bed in Mi­lan, Italy, the young girl was in­spired by struc­tural de­sign. Lily Inglis passed the time by draw­ing and craft­ing minia­ture build­ings out of pa­per. Her child­hood cre­ativ­ity later turned into a ca­reer in ar­chi­tec­ture and de­vo­tion to her­itage con­ser­va­tion in Kingston.

“As a 12-year-old, Lily was sent to a British board­ing school,” Mona Holm­lund and Gail Young­berg said in In­spir­ing Women: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Her­story (Coteau Books, Regina 2003). “When the Sec­ond World War broke out, she found her­self in Bri­tain, hav­ing fin­ished school and want­ing to be an ar­chi­tect.” Inglis did not hes­i­tate.

Ap­pren­tic­ing with a firm in Chel­tenham for six years, Inglis then en­rolled at Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh’s School of Ar­chi­tec­ture pro­gram and achieved a diploma in 1952 at age 26. Soon af­ter grad­u­at­ing, she be­came a mem­ber of the Royal In­sti­tute of British Ar­chi­tects. While at the univer­sity, Lily met psy­chol­o­gist James Inglis, PhD. The pair wed in 1953.

The new grad­u­ate “was of­fered a trav­el­ling schol­ar­ship that en­abled her to go the Scan­di­navia, Italy and the United States to study post-war ar­chi­tec­ture,” ac­cord­ing to Cana­dian Women Artists His­tory Ini­tia­tive. “Inglis then moved to Lon­don, Eng­land, where she was em­ployed with the firm Bridge­wa­ter & Shep­ard.” While there, the avid ar­chi­tect con­tin­ued her stud­ies, at­tend­ing Lon­don Univer­sity in 1957 to earn a cer­tifi­cate in Land­scape De­sign.

About two years later, James Inglis was of­fered a teach­ing post at Queen’s Univer­sity. The hus­band and wife moved to Kingston in 1959 and pur­chased a home in the early 1960s. The two-and-ahalf-storey house at 23 Sy­den­ham St. was a her­itage home, built of clap­board by John McMa­hon in 1866. Nes­tled among older brick homes with tall, ma­ture trees, it was within easy walk­ing dis­tance of Queen’s and down­town. Per­haps the home with el­e­gant gables, fish­scale im­bri­ca­tions, and a sun­burst ped­i­ment de­sign pro­vided per­sonal stim­u­lus for the young ar­chi­tect’s ded­i­ca­tion to con­ser­va­tion.

While her hus­band devel­oped his ca­reer as as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy and re­searcher, Inglis con­tin­ued on her path of ar­chi­tec­ture. In 1962 and 1963, she com­pleted prac­ti­cal train­ing with lo­cal ar­chi­tect Wil­fred Sorensen. Be­com­ing a mem­ber of the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Ar­chi­tects in 1963, Inglis opened her own busi­ness.

It was a pi­o­neer­ing move — Inglis set up her of­fice in her home so she could raise her two daugh­ters at the same time. She faced more than the usual busi­ness hur­dles. Inglis “found that ‘as an ar­chi­tect in North Amer­ica, work­ing out of the house and be­ing a woman meant two strikes against you,’” Holm­lund and Young­berg noted.

In them id-1960s, the Inglis fam­ily moved to Penn­syl­va­nia. Lily Inglis es­tab­lished “an in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice in Philadel­phia ... from 1965 to 1968,” said Queen’s Univer­sity Archives. Re­turn­ing to Canada, the pro­fes­sor and the ar­chi­tect slipped back into their Kingston rou­tines. “Be­tween 1968 and 1983, she was the sole prin­ci­pal of Lily Inglis Ar­chi­tect, work­ing mainly in down­town Kingston with her­itage build­ings.”

Part­ner­ing with Sorensen, the ar­chi­tect took on im­pres­sive projects. “Sorensen and Inglis have of­ten been re­garded as be­ing ‘ahead of their time’ with re­spect to their use of cur­rent best prac­tices in her­itage con­ser­va­tion,” de­scribed City of Kingston’s Re­port to Coun­cil re­gard­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion for a her­itage per­mit on Sept. 6, 2016. The com­pany’s ex­cel­lence shines through in many down­town restora­tions: the Kingston Fron­tenac Public Li­brary, the Ge­orge Brown build­ing, Prince Ge­orge Ho­tel, New­lands Pavil­ion in Mac­don­ald Park, New­court House, cafe court­yards be­hind Chez Piggy, and more.

In 1979, Inglis hired ar­chi­tect Bruce Downey. The grad­u­ate of Car­leton Univer­sity came with ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing at Sorensen’s firm. Two years later, Downey hung out his own shin­gle and in 1981, the pro­fes­sion­als joined to form Inglis and Downey Ar­chi­tects. Their of­fice was lo­cated at 11 Princess St.

The firm spe­cial­ized in smaller con­tracts, such as com­fort­able, ac­ces­si­ble group homes and “con­vert­ing homes to bar­rier-free use.

… We feel that if peo­ple have a need for some­thing that is well de­signed, they should get it,” Inglis said in Per­spec­tives: Pub­li­ca­tion of the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Ar­chi­tects (Vol. 5, No. 2, 1991). Ap­pre­ci­ated by clients, the de­signer brought at­ten­tion to de­tail to her projects.

Lily Inglis “felt that build­ings should sit com­fort­ably in their set­ting, that a build­ing didn’t scream out ‘look at me,’ that they weren’t mon­u­ments to the peo­ple who made them and that they re­sponded to the pur­pose for which they were be­ing built,’” Downey said.

As with any con­struc­tion pro­fes­sional, Inglis at­tended the projects un­der her purview. Wear­ing her hard hat, with doc­u­ments and equip­ment in hand, she of course was fully ca­pa­ble of an­swer­ing ques­tions and solv­ing tech­ni­cal prob­lems that arose.

Al­ways a peo­ple per­son, Inglis of­ten ar­rived late at her of­fice — she would stop and chat along the way, in­ter­ested in the daily lives of those she met on the street. She par­tic­u­larly held con­cerns for chil­dren and the home­less.

Liv­ing in a city rich in his­tory and his­tor­i­cal build­ings, Inglis aimed her sights on her­itage con­ser­va­tion in Kingston. Team­ing with lively his­to­rian and au­thor Mar­garet An­gus, Inglis took city coun­cil to task time and again when her­itage build­ings were threat­ened.

There was a time dur­ing the mid-1900s when the city pre­ferred to de­mol­ish sig­nif­i­cant build­ings. “Lily and Mar­garet An­gus were out­spo­ken about the need to pre­serve them. This was at a time when [speak­ing in favour of preser­va­tion] was go­ing against the flow,” com­mented Jen­nifer McKendry to Mike Nor­ris in the ar­ti­cle “Inglis ‘was de­voted to the cause of her­itage preser­va­tion’” (Kingston Whig-Stan­dard, Jan. 13, 2010).

Per­sis­tence won the day. Rec­og­niz­ing the value of her­itage, coun­cil passed “The City of Kingston Act, 1970.” The act al­lowed pas­sage of by­laws to des­ig­nate build­ings as hav­ing “his­toric or ar­chi­tec­tural value or in­ter­est.” It also pre­vented de­struc­tion of des­ig­nated struc­tures, pro­vided for ac­qui­si­tion un­der sev­eral meth­ods, and pro­vided grant op­por­tu­ni­ties to build­ing own­ers for “ren­o­va­tion, restora­tion or main­te­nance.” Fol­low­ing Kingston’s ad­vanced vi­sion, the On­tario Her­itage Act was es­tab­lished on March 5, 1975.

The ar­chi­tect’s ex­pan­sive body of work brought her well-earned recog­ni­tion. In 2001, the City of Kingston pre­sented Inglis with the Liv­able City De­sign Award. The next year, the Fron­tenac His­toric Foun­da­tion hon­oured the ex­act­ing ar­chi­tect with a life­time achieve­ment award. As well as the On­tario Her­itage Foun­da­tion Achieve­ment Award, Inglis re­ceived an hon­orary diploma from St. Lawrence Col­lege.

As her ca­reer flour­ished, Inglis’s hus­band also en­joyed a suc­cess­ful ca­reer. A co-founder of the Queen’s Psy­chol­ogy Depart­ment’s Clin­i­cal Pro­gramme, James au­thored and co-au­thored books and re­search pa­pers. His in­ter­ests were widerang­ing, from child­hood “Cog­ni­tive Abil­i­ties,” to the “Cog­ni­tive Ef­fects of Uni­lat­eral Brain Dam­age,” to anal­y­sis of “When Mem­ory Fades” in se­niors, and more. On the death of Inglis in 1999, Queen’s Univer­sity es­tab­lished the James Inglis Prize, awarded an­nu­ally to a grad­u­at­ing doc­toral stu­dent with high­est stand­ing in the clin­i­cal pro­gramme.

Sev­eral so­cial ser­vices boards made use of Lily Inglis’s de­vo­tion to the wel­fare of city res­i­dents. The Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety, Sci­ence 44 Co-op­er­a­tive (stu­dent hous­ing), Down­town Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area, the So­cial Plan­ning Com­mit­tee, and oth­ers, all ben­e­fit­ted from her ex­pe­ri­ence and valu­able ideas. As an ad­vo­cate for af­ford­able hous­ing in Kingston, Inglis was also a pro­po­nent for Home Base Hous­ing.

De­vel­op­ing can­cer, Lily Inglis died in Kingston on Jan. 11, 2010. In com­mem­o­ra­tion of her ded­i­ca­tion to so­cial wel­fare, in 2012 the fam­ily-ori­ented shel­ter at 333 Kingscourt Ave. was named Lily’s Place.

Inglis loved bring­ing her­itage build­ings back to vi­brant life. Speak­ing with An­n­marie Adams and Peta Tan­cred in De­sign­ing Women: Gen­der and the Ar­chi­tec­tural Pro­fes­sion (Univer­sity of Toronto Press, 2000), Inglis men­tioned how she felt about her work. “My kicks re­ally come from see­ing it there and even more from see­ing it used and see­ing peo­ple en­joy­ing it…” Su­sanna McLeod is a writer liv­ing in Kingston.

As a 12-year-old, Lily was sent to a British board­ing school. When the Sec­ond World War broke out, she found her­self in Bri­tain, hav­ing fin­ished school and want­ing to be an ar­chi­tect.”

Mona Holm­lund and Gail Young­berg in In­spir­ing Women: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Her­story

IAN MACALPINE/THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

Ar­chi­tect Lily Inglis spoke to mem­bers of the Queen’s Univer­sity Town-Gown Re­la­tions com­mit­tee in the Wil­son Room at the Kingston Fron­tenac Public Li­brary in March 2005.

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