Peter Neve Cotton
Originals 1918–1978 5.5 m
Peter Neve Cotton was one of Victoria's most distinguished architects. He designed many contemporary homes and business complexes, but was best known for his restoration and heritage architecture. Among the buildings he restored were Craigflower Manor, Craigflower School House, Emily Carr House, Point Ellice House, and St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Cathedral. He also refurbished the old post office in Duncan (now Duncan City Hall).
Cotton was born in Merritt, B.C. on 12 March 1918. He spent his boyhood in New Westminster and attended local schools. He worked in the design departments of several large retail stores in Vancouver and in 1939 enlisted in the Canadian Army. He went overseas with the Seaforth Highlanders, then transferred to the British Army Intelligence Branch. He served with distinction in Egypt and Italy and was discharged with the rank of captain.
At the end of the war, Cotton enrolled at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He graduated with a degree in architecture and was instrumental in the founding of UBC's faculty of architecture. He afterwards studied design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and art history at the University of Victoria. A keen historian, Cotton also devoted considerable time to independent research at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Provincial Archives of British Columbia, and various American institutes and academies.
Prior to settling in Victoria in the late 1950's, Cotton and fellow architect, Alfred Staples, designed and manufactured furniture in Vancouver. Their modernistic pieces were marketed under the name "Perpetua." Cotton then joined the architectural staff of the provincial Department of Public Works and was involved with the rebuilding of Government House - an experience which sparked his interest in historical architecture. That interest was expressed not only in his heritage building projects, but also in his manuscript history of B.C.’s vice-regal mansions.
In 1961 Cotton set up his own architectural practice, one of which he subsequently conducted from his own heritage home on Admiral's Road, Esquimalt. His practice grew substantially in the late 1960's, as public interest in historic buildings increased. Cotton's practice and reputation increased further in the 1970s, despite the fact that Cotton suffered from a circulatory disease. The disease cost him his right leg, which was amputated in 1977. The disease also contributed to his death on 31 December 1978.
The collection chronicles the whole of Cotton's life and reflects his many interests and activities. Records include: diaries, daybooks, school report cards, undergraduate papers, and personal correspondence inward plus letters written by Cotton while serving with Canadian Army overseas, 1940-1945, financial records, business correspondence, and project files relating to Cotton's work as architect and interior designer, along with notes, reports letters, and sketches relating to heritage buildings in British Columbia (primarily in Victoria).
Architectural drawings transferred to Map accession, CM/C2008. An on-line finding aid for CM/C2008 is available by searching the WWW pages index on the BC Archives Website. Photographs transferred to Visual Records accessions 198208-64, 198303-40, 198308-7, and 198410-14. Accession 198208-64, contains items transferred from 197812-16 related to Peter Cotton, and includes ca. 105 prints of unidentified people and members of the Cotton and Neve families. A box list for accession 198303-40 is available at the end of this finding aid. Accession 198308-7 contains 124 prints and 123 negatives of Peter Cotton, friends, and family members. Accession 198410-14 contains 300 black and white Cotton family photographs, ca. 1890-1969. Paintings, drawings, and prints have been assigned Visual Records item numbers PDP05433 to PDP05470 and PDP02183. These items include: designs, drawings and watercolours, and an ink and wash on paper portrait of Cotton in uniform. Additional information about Cotton, Christmas card designs and a Perpetua furniture catalogue is available in the BC Archives artist file. Samples of wall coverings and curtain material (used in the restoration of Craigflower Manor) have been transferred to the Heritage Conservation Branch, while architectural magazines and technical journals have been donated to UBC's School of Architecture.
Related records: see MS-0351 which contains rough drafts, notecards, galleys, etc., of Cotton's unpublished history of Government House entitled "From the Ashes" and photograph accession 198207-44, Craigflower Manor restoration. The publication Craigflower Manor: Volume 1, The Structure, The rationale of decisions made during the restoration of the manor in 1968, Peter Cotton, architect in charge is located in Old Manuscripts, call number G/V66/C82. Additional photographs and colour transparencies of historic architecture in Victoria may be found in the Cotton collection of the Maltwood Gallery at the University of Victoria.
The Peter Neve Cotton collection was donated to the Provincial Archives of British Columbia (PABC) by his sisters, Mrs. Mary Small of Salt Spring Island and Mrs. Patricia Jarvis of Bellevue, Washington.