Venue
Stillwaters
Date

October 26, 2015

Renowned For
  • Interior design services
  • Furniture design
  • Textiles
  • Lighting
Notable Local Projects

David Powell was born and raised in Paris and co-founded the award-winning interior design firm, Powell & Bonnell.

David Powell is a Paris success story. Born and raised here he co-created the acclaimed Toronto design firm Powell & Bonnell, an agency responsible for stunning modern interiors and a unique line of Canadian-made furniture. He has gone on to win awards and international accolades, but his humble heart belongs to Paris; he remains committed to his hometown, working tirelessly over the years to advocate for the preservation and celebration of Paris’ unique architecture.

Modern History

Harmony & preservation

For 35 years David has given his life to the design profession, building a career on his rare predilection toward the observation of things. Averse to the idea of “life in a vacuum”, however, he has embarked upon personal journeys that led him through Samoa, across the Australian outback, and for extended studies in Italy.

These reconnaissances hint at David’s relationship with place and time. In his work his love for the modern makes his preoccupation with history somewhat surprising, but it is in fact his deep understanding of antiques and the art and craft of other periods and cultures that allows him to find the harmony between classical antiquities and clean design aesthetics.

35
Years

In the industry

Perhaps nowhere is David’s commitment to heritage more obvious than in his personal pursuit illustrating the buildings of his hometown.

David is a master draftsman well-known for his high calibre, illustrative renderings. In fighting to preserve the historic character of Paris’ downtown core, David applies his brush in the two pieces below to reimagine the County of Brant Council Chambers and the overall rejuvenation of the main street.

Watch David Powell at Paris Lectures

We were curious about David’s long, successful career in the interior design industry, but when we invited him to speak he didn’t want to talk about that. He wanted to talk about Paris, so we got out of the way. Watch his talk below for an inspiring (and at times, horrifying) vision of small town architectural preservation, including some absolutely jaw-dropping historical losses as well as inspiring wins for the future.

Long lost buildings

Station Hill

One of the buildings David mentions in his talk is the train station at the top of Broadway Street which was destroyed after train service to Paris stopped in the 60s. This magnificent brick building sat at the top of Station Hill, the starting point for the Lions Club of Paris’ annual Soap Box Derby each Labor Day. The Derby tradition dates back to the 50s and continues today but with a dramatically changed start line backdrop.

As I said the sixties were brutal. This was the train station that stood at the top of Broadway street. It was a magnificent strange little building. Two turrets greeted you as you came up the hill with a porte-cochere and deep overhanging eaves. It was spectacular.

The interior was even better. It was tiles up the wall. Each of those two semi-circular turrets was a waiting room: one for gentlemen and one for ladies. The ticket wicket would absolutely take your breath away. It was oak and leaded glass.

Train service stopped in the sixties. Now we get to look at empty [cargo] containers at the top of the hill.

From a distance I think we can still claim "The Prettiest Town in Ontario" but when you start to look closer is when it all starts to fall apart.

David onParis, Ontario

The generation prior to me failed miserably at stewardship.

David onPreservation

We have lost so much, it would be to our eternal shame if we lost the Old Town Hall too. It's the first example of Gothic revival architecture in North America.

David onThe Bawcutt Centre

It's the people who have chosen to come this town, the people who have embraced it and who have brought us skill sets, enthusiasm and different points of view. These are the people who will be Parisians.

David onBeing a Parisite

A Paris Past: Mapping the town’s destroyed buildings

The old train station isn’t the only building in Paris, Ontario lost to the annals of history. Below is an aerial photograph of the town from 1919 taken by the Bishop Barker Company of Toronto. The numbered hot spots correspond to lost buildings captured in the hand-coloured postcards below, sourced from a private collection.

Thank you to Paris Museum lifelong volunteer Bob Hasler for providing the images.

1
The Post Office
2
Central School
3
Congregational Church
4
Penman’s Mill No.2
5
King’s Ward Park Bandshell
6
The G.T.R Station
1
The Post Office
2
Central School
3
Congregational Church
4
Penman’s Mill No.2
5
King’s Ward Park Bandshell
6
The G.T.R Station

Much of the archival imagery in David’s talk is sourced from the archives of the Paris Museum & Historical Society.

We're grateful to the Paris Museum & Historical Society for providing the rich material throughout David’s presentation. This important local institution collects, preserves and interprets artifacts from Paris' heritage to display and share with the public for instruction and enjoyment. Through their collections, special events, education programmes, media communications, and related activities, they strive to educate and entertain individuals of all ages, and the local, regional, national and international communities that they serve.

The Paris Museum & Historical Society is an entirely volunteer-run organization and relies on donations from the members of the community to keep their lights on and doors open. If you enjoyed David's talk and discovering more of Paris' beautiful past then please consider stopping by the museum, taking out a membership or donating to the organization to continue its mission.