History, Art and Architecture Collection
desk (member's)

desk (member's)

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desk (member's) Photo gallery for photo 1


Artists John Andrew Pearson (designer) Valley City Seating Company (manufacturer)
Date 1919/12/04
Materials metal, brass metal, bronze wood, oak
Dimensions (cm) 131.5 (Length)52.0 (Width)84.0 (Height)
Functions Furniture
Barcode 605750
Photo gallery for  photo 2 Photo gallery for  photo 3

Member's desk

In 1919, the House of Commons acquired oak desks for Members to sit at in the Chamber in the newly rebuilt Parliament Building. The tandem design features hinged worktops that lift to reveal a storage compartment for books and papers. Although the desks have been modified slightly over the years to accommodate new technologies, they remain a defining fixture of the legislative chamber.

John Andrew Pearson

The individual most closely associated with the construction of Centre Block was a Toronto-based architect by the name of John Andrew Pearson. Pearson was born in England in June 1867 and was educated there. Records suggest that shortly after completing his studies in Sheffield, he immigrated to Canada in 1888. He began a long association with architect Frank Darling, of the firm of Darling and Sproatt, shortly afterwards. By 1893, the firm had been renamed to Darling and Pearson, and Pearson at the age of 31 had established himself as a fixture on the Canadian architectural scene.

Over the next 45 years John Andrew Pearson was associated with increasingly larger number of projects, ranging from commercial structures and hospitals to universities and legislative buildings. By 1913 the Year Book of Canadian Architecture referred to him as a "Master Builder." While associated with many major bank and public buildings, his most noteworthy project was the reconstruction of the Parliament Building destroyed in the fire of February 1916. Together with Montreal architect Joseph-Omer Marchand, Pearson created a superb design that not only fit within the existing framework of Parliament Hill, but provided for the construction of a thoroughly modern, and fireproof, building that would meet the needs of a modern legislature, but one that would fit within a neo-gothic setting.

The construction of the building gave Pearson ample room to demonstrate his genius and vision. The architect was involved in all aspects of the interior and exterior design. Furniture, decorative metal work and stonework were parts of the design process. The symbolic and ceremonial aspects of Parliament, both for parliamentarians and Canadian citizens, were continually acknowledged in the design of the building, culminating in the Peace Tower and its Memorial Chamber.

John Andrew Pearson's genius and prominent role were acknowledged by the University of Toronto in 1932 when he was the first architect in Canada to receive an Honorary Doctor of Architecture Degree.

Valley City Seating Company

The Valley City Seating Company has its roots in a Hamilton, Ontario, venture launched in 1884 by John D. Pennington and Edgar Baker. Initially, the business supplied wooden casings for telephones (still a recent invention at the time) and manufactured student desks for the rapidly growing school system in Canada and the United States. In 1890, Pennington and Baker moved their expanding operations to an old foundry building in nearby Dundas, a community that is now part of the greater Hamilton area. Over the next four decades, the company produced furniture of all kinds but was perhaps best known for church pews and custom courthouse seating. Baker left the partnership at some point, and Pennington transferred the Valley City Seating Company to his sons when he retired in 1929. The business suffered major losses during the Great Depression and went bankrupt in 1937.