Before Eberhard Zeidler had his first huge architectural project, he spent more than a decade, 1951-1962, in Peterborough. While none of the projects would match the scale of the Eaton Centre or the McMaster Health Sciences Centre he did, several helped hone his skills, and to contextualize his ideas.
The Modernist trained in Bauhaus became more sensitive to the people who lived and worked in the buildings created by architects. Peterborough remained a part of his world long after he left.
When Eb Zeidler started working at the Blackwell and Craig architectural firm at the corner of Hunter and George, he already had impressive credentials, and had expectations of being a chief designer or architect in Canada.
However, he quickly learned that unlike in Germany, architects did not have to sign off on every building project. Architects rarely designed houses or factories, and there were not enough new churches, hospitals and office buildings to support very many architects. Zeidler began as a draftsman and the wages were low.
St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Lakefield
For the first week, he stayed in a boarding house at Water and Parkhill, and then moved to the YMCA, which was closer to work. Blackwell and Craig had a major client in the Bank of Toronto, and had an office in Toronto designing new branches of the bank. The amalgamation of the Bank of Toronto and of the Dominion Bank of Canada occurred in early 1955, and there would be more architectural work for the firm.
But in early 1952, Zeidler was transferred to the Toronto office to work on designing new banks. There he worked with Ron Dalziel and William Ralston, the “chief designer of our firm”, and their office was in the Bank of Toronto’s “lovely classic temple” on Yonge across from Eaton’s. Zeidler drew the working drawings for Ralston’s design of the new branch at the corner of Dundas and University—a magnificent Art Deco building.
Architect Frank Franner had left Blackwell and Craig to start an engineering and construction firm known as Timber Structures, which was on the west side of High Street north of Lansdowne. He invited Zeidler, who had architectural and engineering experience, to join the new firm.
Early projects in Peterborough were a hockey rink and two churches, in which Zeidler said they worked with glulam, a new engineered product consisting of two-inch wooden planks laminated together and which could be bent into pleasing arches. Franner became an architect in Scarborough, and Timber Structures continued with David E. Ness as president; the Roy Studio had Timber Structures as a major client, and so an impressive collection of photos of their projects are in the Peterborough Museum and Archives.
When Jim Craig invited Zeidler to return to Blackwell and Craig, Zeidler took the two churches, Grace United and St. Giles Presbyterian, with him. Both projects were on hold as the congregations raised the necessary money. Zeidler’s first project as chief designer was to add, 1952-1953, a Sunday School hall to St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Lakefield.
This was a two-storey box with glulam arches, and laid out parallel to Regent Street. To match the existing church, the roof angles matched, and stone facing joined the hall to the church. There was a narthex of glass between and exits to both Regent and Queen. “I thought the composition looked charming and fit well into the little village,” Zeidler said. He spent more time supervising this project because it was his first Canadian building.
Grace United Church
He was soon working on Grace United Church, on Monaghan across from Kenner Collegiate. The Sunday School on Barnardo Avenue connected with George Street United Church from the 1880s to the 1930s was also known as Grace. Because the congregation had only raised $100,000, the Sunday School was put in the “gloomy” basement “in Peterborough fashion.” The main entrance was at grade level, and the stairs went up for the church and down for the Sunday School.
That said, the church is quite amazing. Jim Craig and Bill Williams helped prepare the construction documentation, and the project was put to tender. Huffman Brothers came in below the architect’s budget and the building of the church was underway. The building used glulam arches, but the arches increased in height as they came closer to Monaghan Road, so the church reached its greatest height over the chancel and sanctuary and the roof extended over the front wall.
That wall facing Monaghan Road was manufactured by Norm Armstrong, a local precaster, and each square was coloured a different hue. Zeidler wanted the wall to be grey like a fieldstone wall but to have pink and green tones, “like natural fieldstone”. He also considered the ways the light would enter the church. Mainly, the light was concentrated on the communion table.
St. Giles Church
There were some critics of the church, but Zeidler was impressed by Robertson Davies’ “glowing editorial” in the Peterborough Examiner about the church which he felt captured our times, and met the needs of its people.
Zeidler worked on St. Giles Church, 1953-54. A few blocks north of Grace Church, St. Giles was a smaller church designed for a congregation of 200. The glass wall facing the street was screened with “a vertical grille of laminated wood slabs perpendicular to the glass.” At some angles, the wall looked solid; at others, the light streamed in.
The firm of Blackwell and Craig did a major addition at St. John’s Anglican Church in Peterborough, 1956-1958, that presented several difficulties. As in Lakefield, the stones removed from one wall were used in building the joining walls between the 1835 church and the 1878 parish hall (which had been expanded by William Blackwell in 1900 and 1926).
St. John’s Anglican Church
Zeidler only mentions this project in his chronology of selected works. However, as archivist-historian at St. John’s since 1976, I have often had to give guided tours of this remarkable Peterborough landmark. The plan was well-executed particularly as it dealt with enclosing the space between the church and the hall and extending the parish hall north on two levels.
However, it continues to bother me that when the new chapel was joined to the nave, a huge hole was carved in the wall of the nave, and two large stained glass windows were cut in half. I always begin my tour of the church standing in this hole and looking at the magnificent vertical lines of the neo-Gothic church that captures all the major ideas of neo-Gothic architecture in the Victorian era.
During the 1950s, Zeidler worked on additions to other local churches such as St. James United, Park Street Baptist and Mark Street United. During the 1950s, churches in the area were adding rooms for Sunday School classes, and the increased space has been easily used for other purposes since then. He did renovations at George Street United and St. George’s Anglican Church.
In 1959, Zeidler designed the new parish hall for what became St. Barnabas Church; as it turned out, the parish hall did double duty so well that a proposed church was never constructed, and the reserved property was used for housing. That same year, Bridgenorth United Church was built. During the 1960s, he did an addition at Fairview United in Smith Township (now Selwyn), and churches in Norwood, Campbellford.
Zeidler worked on the new Beth Israel Synagogue during 1963-64, and it was quickly recognized as outstanding, and was featured in Peterborough: Land of Shining Waters (1966). He worked closely with the rabbi about interpreting the Jewish faith in this building. It took many years for the congregation of about 60 to raise the necessary funds. Rabbi Rosenberg spoke at the opening of the synagogue and gave what Zeidler considered a “rousing speech.”
Rosenberg compared the building to the Lion of Judah: “the powerful body hovering in quiet anticipation with its two paws outstretched to protect its faithful.” The front was defined by a colonnade and Zeidler had created an entrance to the synagogue through a courtyard that was flanked by two classrooms. On reflection, Zeidler thought Rabbi Rosenberg was correct: “it was a small temple that sat like a lion brooding at the edge of a hill, part of the landscape, visible and yet not intruding."
Zeidler’s success with religious buildings was well-established. His first churches showed that even with tight budgets, a great architect could produce stunning results. He built numerous churches, even as late as 1985.
In 2009, he said he considered his first architectural projects to be the Richard Hamilton home in Peterborough and Grace United Church, “both built with some influences from Germany.” However, quite early, his work was also sensitive to the particular sites and the problems to overcome. People had emotional responses to each of his buildings.
—guest column by Peterborough historian Elwood H. Jones. Photos by Evan Holt.
A 131-year-old Bible that had been on display at St. John Catholic Elementary School in Kirkfield has been returned to its rightful home with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Peterborough.
PVNC Director of Education Michael Nasello and Board Chairperson Michelle Griepsma presented the Bible to the Sisters during a Mass at The Mount on Thursday, September 29th.
The Bible was published in 1885. According to a personal, handwritten inscription (see photo below), Msgr. Dominic Casey of Lindsay gifted this impressive Bible to Mother Mary Clotilde, the second Superior General of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peterborough.
“It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to return this Bible to the Sisters of St. Joseph,” Nasello says. “This important piece of history has been on loan to St. John Catholic Elementary School in Kirkfield for many years and today it is returned to its rightful home.”
The date on the Bible’s inscription is June 1905. Much of the Bible’s history is unknown, but former students of St. John CES in Kirkfield have recalled that the Bible came to the school with some other items when the old rectory in Lindsay was closed. St. John CES in Kirkfield closed in June 2016.
Sister Veronica O'Reilly says the Sisters are happy to receive such an important part of their congregation’s history: "It means a very great deal to us because the history of our Sisters is still very much alive among us and to be reminded of that is a source of inspiration for us always going forward."
“It was a touching moment for all of those who have been involved in Catholic education because the very fact that the current Director of Education and Chair of the Board gave this to us, strengthened that link that has always been there," Sister O'Reilly adds. "We are very grateful and very moved by this gift and we will cherish it in our archives.”
Joe Keast, the archivist at The Mount, said the Bible—which is large, heavy and features a beautifully engraved cover and impressive illustrations—would have been a significant gift from the clergy to the Sisters at the time.
Left to Right: Sister Veronica O'Reilly, archivist Joe Keast, PVNC Director of Education Michael Nasello and Board Chairwoman Michelle Griepsma
“It was a very special gift. It shows how much the clergy respected the Sisters. It would have been seen as a thank you to all of the Sisters and all of the work that they were doing,” Keast says. “Because Mother Clothilde was such a major figure in the early years of the congregation, to have something of hers back will be cherished by all the Sisters.”
It's pretty cool when rock stars shop in downtown Peterborough. This week, Greg Keelor from Blue Rodeo dropped by Catalina's on Water—a vintage store on Water St.—and filled up his vintage wheels with retro furniture finds from there.
Greg Keelor and Catalina Motta pictured on Water St. outside the store (Photo by Megan Walker)
"Mr. Greg Keelor buys out our store! An amazing day indeed," Catalina's owner Catalina Motta posted to her Facebook page along with the photo above.
Greg & Catalina with what Catalina calls his "uber cool car"
"Greg is a very charming man," Catalina tells PTBOCanada. "He has shopped in my Hunter Street location in the past buying things like quality vintage Italian knit ties and the like. Now with my Water St location, I am able to showcase a larger array of my vintage finds. He walked in and bought my most coveted pieces: mid-century modern dining table with four chairs, and a rather ornate Queen Anne sofa which he claims will be re-purposed. He bought various other bits, too."
Members of the Peterborough Rowing Club are back at it again this year, inviting you to “take one for the team” with their bare-all take on combatting homophobia in competitive sport.
Last year’s semi-nude men’s calendar saw hundreds of calendars sold and thousands of dollars given to Egale Canada—an organization committed to reducing stigmas around sport for LGBTQ youth.
Female version added to calendar this year
This year, there is an addition to the calendar with a female version focusing on body positivity and sisterly-love. This classy, 14-month gold mine of athletic men and women make it all-too-easy for you to help put a stop to homophobia.
The calendar—aptly named “Gentlemen of the Otonabee” and “Ladies of the Otonabee” for the 6 km stretch of the river that runs by their rowing club in Peterborough—features 28 sculpted, dedicated athletes.
“It’s about building an ally base,” says one member of the rowing team who participated in the photoshoot. “Sport should have no sexual orientation. For us, your crew is like your family, and you need to be able to trust that your family will back you up.”
$5 from the sale of each calendar will be donated to Egale Canada, a subset of the Canada Human Rights Trust. The calendars sell for $20 online, and can be purchased here.
A Made in Peterborough device is set to become an essential component in medical laboratories around the world. Trent University-based Lab Improvements is launching the CapTrack, an innovative, benchtop medical specimen capping and archiving device into the U.S. market.
CapTrack is the brainchild of local entrepreneurs Alex Bushell, 28, and Steve Wright, 56, who have more than two decades of combined experience in the design, installation and servicing of lab automation systems around the world.
From left: Peterborough Innovation Cluster's Rosalea Terry & Mike Skinner; Lab Improvement founders Alex Bushell & Steve Wright
Bushell and Wright saw a need for a compact, affordable solution for labs that could not justify a full-scale automation system.
“While small labs face many of the same issues as larger ones, the traditional automation systems used by high volume labs are not practical for smaller facilities, such as those found in hospitals," says Bushell.
The CapTrack is a portable device that manages refrigerated inventory and caps specimen tubes for medical laboratories. "Our patented technology uses a combination of robotics, process control and software that saves time and money while reducing risk and increasing the quality of laboratory results," says Wright.
Adds Bushell: "Our device allows for smaller labs to process samples automatically, reducing the risk of sample contamination and decreasing staff exposure to blood borne pathogens and repetitive strain injuries. We like to refer to the CapTrack as a ‘co-bot’, meaning a machine that works collaboratively with lab technicians to make their jobs easier, safer and more efficient. It does not replace them."
Bushell and Wright have been working out of the Innovation Cluster's incubator The Cube at Trent University for the past two years. Along with their team of five employees, the duo have taken the CapTrack from a bright idea to market readiness.
"Alex and Steve have had access to our incubation space located at Trent University as well as our knowledge partners and business experts who provided networking, patent application help and strategic planning," says Rosalea Terry, Entrepreneurship & Marketing Coordinator at the Innovation Cluster.
Members of the Lab Improvements team pictured at Trent University's The Cube
Here Is How CapTrack Works...
-> Once lab technicians have loaded the samples into the CapTrack, the device robotically caps the filled tubes before rotating them through a scanner, reading their bar codes and inputting the information into a database.
-> The samples are then placed into racks for storing. During this process, the device will illuminate any faulty sample that needs a closer look by surrounding it with red light, immediately notifying the lab staff of a problem.
-> Samples that require further testing are normal in any lab, says Bushell: “The CapTrack allows staff to look up a sample on the device and find where it is located within the fridge, versus the current method that could take a lab tech managing the cold in the fridge up to two hours at a time to locate just one sample."
Bushell and Wright recently inked an agreement with Holland, Michigan-based M2 Scientifics to market and distribute the CapTrack to the lucrative American health sciences sector. They plan to market to Canada’s 1,300 hospitals and the broader global market in subsequent phases of development.
"Lab Improvements will manufacture and service every CapTrack in Peterborough," says Wright, adding that the company currently has the capacity to build four devices a week. While traditional large-scale automation systems can cost upward of $3 million, the CapTrack retails for under $50,000 U.S., making it affordable for laboratories of all sizes.
You can watch a video to learn more about how it works here...
"The invention of this device is a huge step forward for the medical industry and it is very exciting that the manufacturing of this product will continue to remain in Peterborough, which will help strengthen our local economy," says Michael Skinner, President & CEO at the Innovation Cluster.