This Week in History


The McCauslands: Magicians of Glass and Colour

For the week of Monday April 21, 2003

On April 28, 2000, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled a plaque commemorating the stained glass windows by Robert McCausland Limited in the old Bank of Montreal building in Toronto. This building features a magnificent dome decorated with mythological figures and provincial emblems, a fine example of the work of the oldest stained-glass window manufacturer in North America.

McCausland studios in 1990, Toronto

McCausland Studios in 1990, Toronto
© Parks Canada / Joan Mattie

Originally from Ireland, Joseph McCausland immigrated to Upper Canada when he was seven. While very young, he took an interest in the arts, especially painting and the decorative arts. In 1846, he founded an interior decorating firm, to which he added a stained glass workshop in 1856. The firm changed names several times before becoming Robert McCausland Limited, named after Joseph's son. Robert took over the stained glass section, which his father had entrusted to a few employees after becoming a partner in the firm in 1881. Robert had studied art in Europe, where he developed valuable contacts that contributed to the company’s success.

Detail of British Columbia Memorial Window Canadian Memorial Church

Detail of British Columbia
Memorial Window
Canadian Memorial Church

© Parks Canada / Joan Mattie

The company reached the pinnacle of success between 1890 and 1930, when its windows were installed in a number of major buildings such as the Bank of Montreal building in Toronto (which now houses the Hockey Hall of Fame), the British Columbia parliament buildings in Victoria, and Canadian Memorial Church in Vancouver. At the turn of the century, the McCauslands refused to engage in mass production, even though it was increasingly widespread, and carried on the tradition of making every window unique. Each work was executed to a specific order, and sometimes even in consultation with the architects of the building where the window would be installed.

McCausland stained glass has been recognized as being of national historic significance for their historic and architectural value.

Date Modified: