James Thomson

1851 - 1927

Visionary architect and engineer. Thomson was born in Edinburgh, where he trained. He joined Dundee Corporation and was involved in the implementation of the City's Improvement Act of 1871. In 1906, he was appointed City Architect and was responsible for various public buildings in the city, most notably the Caird and Marryat Halls (gifted by James Caird, and his sister Mrs Marryat), Blackness Library (1909), Coldside Library (1909) and Ward Road Museum (1911). The libraries were designed by his son Frank Thomson. In 1910, he put forward an visionary 50-year plan for the city, intended to make Dundee the Venice of the North, which included an immense Beaux Arts-style civic centre, widening and realigning streets to open up new vistas and piazzas in the city centre. These plans were never implemented due to the First World War and instead he concentrated his efforts on housing. In 1922, Thomson was also appointed Housing Director, having been responsible for implementing the first large-scale municipal housing schemes in Scotland at Logie and Craigiebank (1918-20).

He also proposed a road bridge over the River Tay making use of the foundations of the old rail bridge. However his idea of a ring-road, a concept far ahead of it time, was built as the Kingsway.

Thomson was also the first from a Scottish town to be elected President of the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers.

He collapsed and died in the Caird Hall, and lies buried in Balgay Cemetery.

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