James Salmon was born in 1805 and served his architectural apprenticeship with John Brash – the architect of Blythswood Square.
He is reputed to have started in practice in 1823 – however this would have made him only 18 years old at that stage and it’s more likely he began in business on his own account in the early 1830s. He was recognised as ‘a man of wide interests, a liberal, a free Kirker … a poet’ and enjoyed a high profile in Glasgow’s architectural and political scenes.
He was commissioned in 1854 by Alexander Dennistoun to masterplan and build a model suburb – Dennistoun – and the perspective of his vision is incorporated in the website homepage. The building work commenced around 1860 and the Salmon family were among the first residents, in a villa in Broompark Circus. Unfortunately Salmon’s villa was demolished in 1980s.
He was instrumental in founding both the Glasgow Architectural Society in 1858, and the Glasgow Institute of Architects in 1868, becoming it’s first President with Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson as Vice President. He was an active participator in these bodies, alongside such as Alexander ‘Greek' Thomson and John Honeyman, delivering papers and lectures.
In a career spanning some sixty years, he designed in a range of styles but most comfortably in the early Victorian Renaissance – the most prominent example of this being the warehouse at 81 Miller Street. In 1860 James became a city Magistrate and gradually grew more concerned with municipal affairs than architectural ones.
In 1872 he was featured in ‘The Baillie’ in their ‘Men you Know’ series where it was said ‘ he was just the person who would have improved the city and his circumstances by contriving to enrich it with a suburb (Dennistoun) and to draw the plans himself in order to prevent important work from falling into improper hands.’ Some ironic criticism perhaps.
He was not only an architect but also a Property Developer and Estate Agent. As James’ commitments in Municipal affairs increased his son William Forrest Salmon joined him in practice in 1860 and gradually took responsibility for running the business with his father’s then assistant James Ritchie. While both James and William Forrest achieved considerable standing inside and outside their profession, only in a few instances can their architecture be said to stand apart from that of their contemporaries. This particular situation was to change radically with the architectural development of his grandson James junior affectionately known as the ‘Wee Troot’ who joined the family practice in 1888 and went on to become one of the finest architects of his generation.
In that same year James Salmon senior died after falling badly while walking home from one of his after dinner speeches.
Sources : Architecture of Glasgow by Gomme and Walker, James Salmon by Raymond O’Donnell,