John Quinton Bruce has been described as designing in a ‘flamboyant style’ (Page 1986: 158). He was responsible for several well-known Adelaide buildings as well as for a number of residences in the Federation style.
Son of a shipmaster and born at sea on 17 April 1865, Bruce arrived in Adelaide in 1869 and was educated in a private school run by Rev. William Moore (Burgess 1907). He contributed to the local sporting and recreational community as Vice-President of the North Adelaide Football Club and as an active member of the Adelaide Rowing Club and the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron. Bruce married at North Adelaide in 1898.
In 1880 Bruce was articled to architect E.H. Bayer of Bayer & Withall. On completion of his articles he remained with the practice as a draughtsman but in 1884 decided to broaden his professional knowledge by studying surveying with Evans & Evans, licensed surveyors. On completion of a period of indenture he joined William Cumming but then returned to Bayer & Withall as chief draughtsman. From 1894 to 1912 he established himself as a sole practitioner (Jensen and Jensen 1980) employing Louis Laybourne Smith as a draughtsman for a short while (Page 1986: 109). Subsequently he worked as Bruce, Wooldridge & Harral, as Bruce & Harral and as an independent practitioner (1916 to 1919) (Willis 1998).
Bruce became member of the South Australian Institute of Architects (SAIA) in November 1894 and was made a Fellow of the SAIA in 1897. He held positions both as Vice-President from 1905 (Burgess 1907), and as President from 1909 to 1911 (Freeland 1971).
Bruce designed a number of villas and large residences in Adelaide. These included one at Medindie for Fred Scarfe, another on East Terrace for H.A. Parsons, and Stalheim (1901) on Montefiore Hill, North Adelaide, for Hugh R. Dixson, a parliamentarian and tobacco manufacturer (Marsden et al 1990). Sir Langdon Bonython purchased Stalheim in 1908 and renamed it Carclew (Gunton 1983). He made only one major addition, a single-storey library in the north-west corner of the mansion (Marsden et al 1990). Carclew remained in the ownership of the Bonython family until 1965 and following its purchase by the state government in 1985 it became the Carclew Youth Arts Centre. It survives as a prominent landmark building in the Federation style (AHPI).
Bruce won design competitions for the Woodville Institute and for the Citizen’s Life Assurance Building (Burgess 1907), also known as Electra House, at 131-133 King William Street. He supervised construction of Electra House after plans for the building were accepted by the Adelaide City Council on 10 September 1900. Electra House is a late Victorian building revealing Classical design elements (AHPI; RAIA Significant Architecture). It is historically significant because of its association with the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Co. Ltd. responsible in 1872 for providing telegraphic communication from Europe to South Australia’s overland telegraph, and for its associations with the insurance industry in South Australia (Marsden et al 1990).
Bruce and Harral's design for the Freemasons Grand Lodge, 254-260 North Terrace, Adelaide, was accepted in 1923. The architectural orders feature strongly in the design because of their place in the Masonic tradition (Marsden et al 1990). Due to cost factors, reinforced concerete replaced the originally specified stone and granite but the intended imposing scale of the building was not compromised. Opened in May 1927, the Grand Lodge's exterior and interior, including the impressive Hall of Fame, have had few alterations (Marsden et al 1990). In 2008 the decision was taken to allow the hall at the rear of the Grand Lodge to be demolished to make way for a multi-storey tower.
The Freemasons Grand Lodge was one of Bruce’s several significant commissions in Adelaide. It was his last major project before his death on 8 January 1930.
Sullivan, Christine, 'Bruce, John Quinton’, Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, 2008, Architects of South Australia: [http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=32]