Windsor

1567 Ouellette – The Ernest Wilby House

This big Tudor Revival house on Ouellette Avenue, has seen better days, but was also the home to one of the most important architects of the 20th century.

Ernest Wilby was born in England in 1869, moving to Toronto at age 4, and retuning to England for college. He graduated college there in 1885, and came back to Canada in 1887. He worked for various firms in the Toronto area, moving to Buffalo, NY in 1895. In February, 1902 he made an important decision and moved to Detroit, MI where he met Albert Kahn. He joined Albert Kahn’s office, and quickly became the Chief Designer for Albert Kahn, a position he held from 1903 – 1918. He helped design and supervise many big projects, including the Ford Factory in Highland Park and the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor.

He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1922, where he remained active as a member of the faculty of the School of Architecture until 1943.

According to an article in the Windsor Star from February 20, 1946, Professor Ernest Wilby was awarded and honorary fellowship in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The article credits Wilby as the “originator of the concrete pier and steel sash type of industrial building”. The article also said that Wilby had lived in Windsor since 1930, although he is listed in the 1923 directory as well.

Wilby’s obituary from December, 1957, stated he died at his home at the age of 89. It also credits him with designing and building his house on Ouellette Ave. in 1930.

The funeral took place beside his house at St. Paul’s Anglican Church (now home to J.P. Tompson, architects), and Wilby is buried in St. Mary’s Church Graveyard in Walkerville, a building he personally supervised the construction of.

As part of his legacy, there is an Ernest Wilby Memorial Scholarship that has been awarded every year since 1966.

Next time you drive past the old place on Ouellette, give a thought about the man who designed it, built it and died in it, and how his designs while working at Albert Kahn’s helped revolutionize how industrial buildings were made.

Another part of Windsor’s often overlooked history.
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