Jack C. Wright: The Civil Engineer

I have not written about my grandfather, Jack C. Wright, on this blog yet, but I have some compelling stories to tell about him. I did not get to know my grandfather well while he was alive, since he passed away when I was two years old. However, I feel I have come to know him well in recent years. As anyone who has visited my apartment will tell you, Jack was a painter. He had his own studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and had a successful professional life. I have many of his works hanging around my apartment and even created a website dedicated to his life and art. But what I didn’t know about Jack was how he was much more than just a painter.

Jack was also an inventor, an “ad man,” an industrial designer and an engineer. We recently discovered a large envelope which contained some of Jack’s earlier works. This was a treasure trove of old photos, advertisements, articles, designs and more. After inspecting every document in this envelope, I felt a new-found appreciation for my grandfather, and a lot of personality similarities.

But the story I want to tell is that of an intersection in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My grandfather was born Jack Clarence Wright in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1909. The family would later move to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Jack would attend school and do most of his growing up. At approximately 22 years old, Jack headed off to Toronto to make a name for himself as a commercial artist. Fast forward to 1939 when the Evening Telegram published an article about Jack and one of his designs. This particular work of art was a bit of civil engineering, redesigning an intersection in Toronto that had become congested, Davenport Road and Dupont Street. What made this intersection incredibly difficult to navigate clearly was that there was a train and a street car that intersected Davenport at different spots. Having two major modes of mass transit, plus a couple road intersections that are busy, made for a congested intersection. As you can see from the article, Jack’s idea was never implemented due to cost.

In the gallery below I have a few photos, including the article and the inset from the article of the proposed design. I decided to include photos from Google Maps Street View of the current intersection, which appears significantly less congested (at least at the time of the photo) and no longer has a streetcar route. And since I play SimCity, I thought I would add my own flair to the design and I attempted a recreation of the intersection as Jack designed. I think it came out fairly well. There is certainly no congestion at this SimCity intersection!

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for other designs from Jack, including a special service car for the royal tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and aircraft.

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