Cyril William Upton Chivers was born in Avebury, England (Wiltshire) on April 11, 1879. Early training brought the young Chivers to the London Polytechnic Institute, where he studied draftsmanship. In 1897 he moved with his family to Canada, settling in Manitoba.
Chivers gained employment as an assistant with the Winnipeg design offices of S. Frank Peters. In 1898 he moved to the offices of George C. Browne. After that, Chivers was hired in 1901 as a draftsman by Canadian Pacific Railway Engineering Construction Department. Amongst Chivers’s assignments while working with the CPR was the Laggan, B.C. railway station (1905).
In 1906 the young designer left the railway. It was during this period, in 1908, that Chivers was first affiliated with George W. Northwood, the Winnipeg-based partner of Winnipeg and Ottawa firm Northwood & Noffke. In 1909, however, he established a practice under his own name. The timing for this enterprise could not have been better, with Winnipeg experiencing a boom. Chivers received numerous commissions for residential and institutional projects.
Notable works of this era included: the Dorchester Apartments (Lilac Street at Dorchester Avenue, 1910); the Christie Residence (365 Wellington Crescent, 1910-1911); and the Lt. Col. Robert M. Thomson Residence (South Drive, 1913-19; now part of St. Johns Ravenscourt School).
Chivers halted this spell of lively work to serve in the First World War. He joined the First Canadian Mounted Rifles, travelling to the European front and gaining the rank of Brigade Major with the Ninth Canadian Infantry Brigade. Beyond this title, Chivers received the Distinguished Service Order.
Following his return from Europe, the architect came back to Winnipeg. Amongst his first post-war projects was, in 1919, to complete the design and construction of the Lt. Col. R.M. Thomson Residence, which he had begun before the onset of war. For some time after, Chivers resumed his own architectural office until, in the mid-1920s, Chivers once again joined Northwood, with whom he had been associated in the century’s first decade. This partnership was eminently successful and was connected to a great number of the city’s most iconic and prominent buildings. One of the many renowned structures which the new practice created was the iconic, Tudor, Assiniboine Park Pavilion – a three-storey block topped by a soaring tower.
Around this time the firm also was moving toward the embrace of a gradually modernising aesthetic approach, seen in such examples as the Canadian Wheat Board Building (423 Main Street, 1928). A similarly contemporary manner appears in the firm’s brick and stone Canadian General Electric Building (265 Notre Dame Avenue, 1930); the refined buff brick and stone Women’s Tribute Memorial Lodge (200 Woodlawn Street, 1931); the clean-lined limestone Winnipeg Civic Auditorium (200 Vaughan Street, 1932 with Semmens, Pratt and Ross); and the Dominion Public Building (269 Main Street, 1935-36). Significantly, the latter two of this set came as government sponsored projects designed to spur economic growth during the Great Depression.
During this era an increasing proportion of the firm’s work came from outside the city, in such commissions as the T. Eaton Company Department Store, 101st Street at 102nd Avenue, Edmonton, 1938 – an Art Moderne, ground-hugging, two-storey stone structure.
Northwood and Chivers continued as a practice into the period following the Second World War. This period saw a number of figures who would later have a large impact on the city’s architectural history come through the firm’s offices, including Lawrence Green and R. E. Moore. Throughout this time the original partners bowed out, with Chiver’s son John Chivers taking control of the firm, alongside new partner John Casey; the firm ended in the late 1950s.
Beyond his design practice, Chivers was invested in the field of architecture intellectually and on an association level. He wrote often on issues in the field, for such publications as the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Journal. Like his partner, Chivers was nominated president of the Manitoba Association of Architects, serving twice – in 1928 and in 1940. Chivers passed away in Winnipeg on August 9, 1969.