|Prince of Wales Armoury Building, now home to City of Edmonton Archives. File Photo|
A writer of a 1913 profile of Edward Collis Hopkins called him A Natural Born Builder and, considering his lineage and record of achievement, the label was certainly appropriate. The feature also named Hopkins Edmontons leading architect and the designer of some of the finest buildings in the Dominion of Canada.
Hopkins designed Regina City Hall, the Vancouver Opera House and Calgary Normal School. He was Albertas first Provincial Architect, appointed in 1905 and was later involved in the design of some of our citys most prominent landmarks, including the Prince of Wales Armoury (1915; now home to the City of Edmonton Archives), Great West Saddlery Company Building (1911) and the Pantages Theatre (1913; demolished in 1979).
The surviving buildings, like the Prince of Wales Armoury, offer evidence of his exceptional finesse and understanding of form and function. The designs are testaments of a fertile background and diverse training and life experience.
The son of Margaret Tilly and John W. Hopkins, a prominent eastern Canada architect, Edward was born in Montreal in 1857. He received a private school education but only finished high school before joining his fathers firm, Hopkins and Wiley.
Edward soon became a full partner and their firm was known as J.W. and E.C. Hopkins, Architects. A report from the City of Edmonton Planning and Development Department notes that the father and son designed several noteworthy Montreal buildings, including the Protestant Insane Asylum, the T.C. Wilson Building and the addition to the Windsor Hotel (all 1888). The younger Hopkins also designed the Montreal Ice Palace for the 1900 visit of the Marquess of Lorne.
In 1881, Edward married Emma Jane Blow in Whitby, Ontario. The couple were to have a son and a daughter.
In the early 1890s, Edward won a gold medal in a Parisian world competition in architecture. The partnership was dissolved in 1896 and Edward went on to form another partnership and then work in Boston and Quebec City. Information obtained from the City of Edmonton Archives reports that, in 1905, Hopkins was appointed Provincial Architect for Alberta and submitted a proposal for the Legislative Buildings. But the plan was considered too similar to Francis Rattenburys design for the British Columbia Legislature and was rejected. Hopkins submitted a second plan, but this too was turned down and so in 1906 he resigned as provincial architect.
Hopkins returned to private practice, opening an office at 132 Jasper Avenue (what is now 10331 Jasper Avenue). In the 1915 edition of Hendersons Edmonton Directory, he is listed with an office address of 319 McLeod Building at what is now 10132 100 Street.
He is credited with the design of several Edmonton landmarks, including the Marshall-Wells Building (1910), the Horne and Pitfield Building (1911) and the Balmoral Block (1913). A 1983 paper by Georgina Kravetz on the Pantages Theatre notes that Hopkins designed the office structure which formed the frontage and entrance to the theatre, which later became the Strand Theatre. The Brown Block, as the office frontage was called, was designed with foundations strong enough to support a 15-storey structure, but it was built with two-storeys and remained that way until its destruction some 65 years later.
Hopkins was one of the founding members of the Alberta Association of Architects, formed in 1906. The organization was established to define who could be considered an architect and to prevent contractors and draftsmen from advertising themselves as architects, when really they were not.
During the inaugural year, Hopkins was elected second member of the Council and, in 1910, was chosen as the associations president. He was also named a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
The 1912 edition of Whos Who in the city reported his faith as Presbyterian and his political leaning as Liberal. Recreations were listed as horses and hunting. The 1913 feature, in a special supplement in the Edmonton Journal, observed that, To Mr. Hopkins this career is but the natural result of a lifetime devoted to an especial art. Designing buildings from the most elaborate pile of ancient design to the simplest cottage is to Mr. Hopkins a pastime, and he estimates the satisfaction he derives from his work as superior to monetary emoluments.
In 1914 or 1915, the Hopkins family moved into an Inglewood House at 11209 123th Street, where he lived until shortly before his death in 1941. An obituary in the August 19, 1941 edition of the Edmonton Bulletin announced that Hopkins had died following a brief illness and was interred in the Edmonton Cemetery. The report said he was 84 and survived by one daughter, four grandsons and one great granddaughter. There was no mention of Emma or their son Edward.
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