Samuel Maclure was born in 1860 in New Westminster, British Columbia, the son of a Royal Engineer. He at first wanted to be an artist and studied at the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia. Here he studied drawing and perhaps wood and metal work. He was basically a self-taught architect who insisted on first-quality craftsmanship in his commissions. His early architectural activities have not been fully researched, but his move to Victoria in 1892 marks the beginning of the most successful years of his career. A fire in his office in the Five Sisters block resulted in the loss of many early blueprints. He was also known as a fine watercolourist.
Over the years Maclure opened offices with many other architects, notably C.C. Fox and Ross Lort. His early buildings in Victoria were one-storey, framed in wood and featuring shingles on the exterior. His largest commission was the construction of Hatley Park, now the administration centre of Royal Roads University. Ironically, this “Castle” was not in one of Maclure’s usual styles. He employed many architectural styles while creating unique residences for unique clients. He designed homes in Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, Bungalow, and Chalet styles but is perhaps best known for his Tudor Revival and Craftsman dwellings.
In the years immediately following the turn of the 20th century, Maclure designed some of the grandest dwellings in Victoria. His buildings are designed to take advantage of their sites with magnificent gardens often as important as the structures themselves. His clients were generally well-off and entertained in a grand style. The Maclure “living hall” with a grand staircase arising from it was often surrounded by a gallery.
Maclure is known primarily for his residential architecture, with relatively few commercial designs. Although some of his buildings have been demolished, many remain due to their prominence in the neighbourhood.
Samuel Maclure designed buildings for other regions, but it is in the Victoria area that his most famous examples remain. One of his designs, the residence for lawyer Alexis Martin at 1598 Rockland Avenue, was written up in the American Craftsman Magazine in 1908 and the Canadian Architect and Builder in 1907.