Perhaps the mark of architect John Lyle’s brilliance is the fact that so much of his work endure – a lot of it more than a century after he created them. Coming immediately to mind are Union Station, the Royal Alexanrda Theatre and Runnymede Public Library in Toronto and in Hamilton, Central Presbyterian Church, the Gage Park Fountain, and the Mc Questen High Level Bridge. Lyle, born in 1872 was the son of Dr. Samuel Lyle, the minister at Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton. He showed an early interest in art and studied architecture at Yale and later at l’ecole des beaux-arts in Paris. He began his career with several New York architectural firms before setting up his own practice in Toronto.
Through his early years Lyle paid the bills by designing over 50 bank branches—30 in Toronto alone and most of them for the Dominion, now TD Bank. Lyle gradually shifted his style from the Beaux-Arts look of the Royal Alexandra to embrace Art-Deco as exemplified in the four pylons on the McQuesten Bridge. He surrounded himself with like-minded architects and was a leading figure in the Diet Kitchen group of creative minds in Toronto. Lyle espoused a Canadian version of Art Deco and employed images of Canadian wildlife in his work, most notably in the Bank of Nova Scotia building in Halifax. One of Lyles acolytes was William Lyon Somerville, designer of the original buildings at McMaster, who carried on the moderne architectural tradition with his work in the Niagara Parks and the early bridges and structures along the Queen Elizabeth Way.