Young architect James Augustus Ellis first came to the Junction in 1889, just as the village had grown into a town. Over the next twenty years, either working solo or in tandem with other architects, James Ellis designed over fifty buildings in the Junction area: factories, hotels, places of worship, public buildings, and many houses, including his own home. Very rarely does one architect get to make such an impression on a single town.
James Ellis was born in 1856 in St. Vincent Township, in Grey County, to immigrants from Kent, England. He got his professional start with the Meaford Building and Manufacturing Co., where he worked on a variety of buildings in Grey County, including the Methodist Church and the fire hall. While living in Meaford, Ellis married his wife Mary, and started a family.
Leaving to work on his own in late 1889, Ellis took work where it was available, and there was a lot of work available in the rapidly-growing Junction, where Ellis worked on at least eleven buildings in his first year alone. These early projects include two factories, and the houses of several prominent Junction citizens including the mayor, Daniel Webster Clendenan.
When the Junction was hit by a recession in mid 1890s, Ellis temporarily relocated to Baltimore, and took on additional work in other parts of Ontario. He returned to Canada in 1896, partnering first with Henry Simpson, with whom he designed several buildings in Toronto, Port Arthur, and Parry Sound.
By 1898 the Junction had recovered from the recession and was growing again. Ellis designed more Junction buildings, eventually acquiring so much work that he took on a junior partner, William Connery. Ellis remained partnered with Connery from 1906 to 1914, at which point Ellis went into business with his son, C. Howard Ellis. James Ellis retired in the late 1920s, and died in 1935.