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Born: 1866 09 17
Died: 1921 09 16


List of projects:

(FRIBA 1902; OBE)

Principal of FORSYTH & PARKER and one of the leading architects in Cape Town between 1895 and 1921, Parker was born in Greenock, Scotland and educated in Glasgow. He entered the office of Naval architects McNicoll & Smith in Glasgow where he remained for a year before his apprenticeship to John Baird of Thompson & Baird, Glasgow in 1880; he remained in this office for two years before leaving for South Africa in 1883. He arrived in Cape Town in March 1883, entering the office of Charles FREEMAN, architect and surveyor, in whose office he remained for seven years, for the last three of which he was chief assistant. He set up independent practice in Cape Town in about 1890. He married in 1892. In 1905 he admitted Alexander FORSYTH into partnership (cf PARKER & FORSYTH). While establishing his practice he hardly travelled but in 1902 he was 'on the continent for a month and a good deal about England and Scotland' (FRIBA nom papers 1902). Parker appears to have built up his practice from scratch, no competition wins launching him on his way. Apart from a few early houses for what seem to have been developers and speculators, Parker's first large commissions were for hoteliers in the early 1890s and hotels formed a significant element in his practice throughout his career. He had one of the largest practices in Cape Town for a period of about twenty years. He was a contemporary of Herbet BAKER in Cape Town and had an able partner in Forsyth. The Parker, Staniforth & Beildt Gift of drawings now kept at the University of Cape Town show a high standard of draughtsmanship which provides a good indication of the strength of their conceptions. Parker also played a part in local government, holding numerous appointments: he was elected a member of the Cape Town City Council in 1900 and during the Anglo-Boer War had been a Captain in the town guard; he continued to be a member of the city council until 1908, having been made a city father in 1905. He was elected first mayor of greater Cape Town in 1913, a post he held for two terms. Parker was Chairman of the Joint Committee of Cape Peninsula Water Supply, Vice-Chairman of the Cape Peninsula Municipal Union Conference and a member of the Council of the YMCA; one-time President of the Cape Town Caledonian Society as well as co-founder and the first president of the Cape Institute of Architects; he was also Chairman of the African Homes Trust and a founder member of the South African Society of Architects (SASA) in 1901. He died in Cape Town. The City Council commissioned a portrait of Parker from Edward Roworth for the City Hall (AB&E Sep 1925:9). Parker's house, The Firs, in Rosebank, where he lived from 1898 until 1921 became the home of the artist Irma Stern, and is currently administered by the University of Cape Town as the Irma Stern Museum.

There is also a listing of this practitioner on the Dictionary of Scottish Architects.

(AB&E Sep 1925:9; Afr Archt May 1914:336; Afr Archt Jul 1914:7; Arch SA Jul/Aug 1985:42-9; Building Sep 1921: 520, obit; FRIBA nom papers (1902) 867; Jagger Jnl 4, Dec 1983; Lantern Sept 1983:14-7, article by E van Ryssen; Parker, Staniforth & Bieldt Gift, UCT Libr 729; SAA&B Mar 1905:122; SAWW 1908, 1910, 1916)

Publ: Artisans' dwellings, SAA&B May 1907:130; A new building, SAA&B Nov 1904:31; Real live organisation, Afr Archt Jun 1913:219.

All truncated references not cited and linked below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Books with reference to PARKER, John

Beck, Haig (Editor). 1985. UIA International Architect : Southern Africa (Issue 8). London: International Architect. pp 58
Brown, SM. 1969. Architects and others: an annotated list of people of South African interest appearing in the RIBA Journal 1880 1925. Johannesburg: Unpublished dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand. pp
CPIA Committee. 1983. The Buildings of Cape Town 1983 : Phase Two. Volume Three : Catalogue and Classification. Cape Town: Cape Provincial Institute of Architects. pp
Crump, Alan & Van Niekerk, Raymund. 1988. Public sculptures & reliefs Cape Town. Cape Town: Clifton Publications. pp 28
Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 57, 65, 69, 74, 80, 83, 87, 98, 100, 113, 116, 120, 130, 163, 179, 305
HSRC. 1987. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume V. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 565-566
Johnson, Brian Andrew. 1987. Domestic architecture at the Cape, 1892-1912 : Herbert Baker, his associates and his contemporaries. Cape Town: Unpublished Thesis UNISA. pp
Parker, Howard. 2015. John Parker, 1866-1921 : architect and mayor of Cape Town. Wellington, New Zealand: Howard Parker. pp All
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 15, 17, 25, 80
Radford, D. 1979. The architecture of the Western Cape, 1838 1901. A study of the impact of Victorian aesthetics and technology on South African architecture. Johannesburg: Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Dept of Arch. University of the Witwatersrand. pp
Rennie, John for CPIA. 1978. The Buildings of Central Cape Town 1978. Volume Two : Catalogue. Cape Town: Cape Provincial Institute of Architects. pp
Walker, Michael. 2012. The early architects of Cape Town and their buildings (1820 - 1926) with postcard illustrations. St James: Michael Walker. pp 76
Walker, Michael. 2015. Old hotels of Cape Town (1890-1911), The : A history long forgotten, seldom told. St James: Published Privately. pp 6-8, 11-15, 63, 69, 71, 72

Chapters in books with reference to PARKER, John

Various. A Biographical history: in Beck, Haig (Editor). 1985. UIA International Architect : Southern Africa (Issue 8): pp 58
Bean, Lucy & Pryce-Lewis, O. Parker, John: in HSRC. 1987. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume V: pp 565-566