Lois Lister was born in Lancashire, England, in 1919. She studied Economics at Cambridge University and at Radcliffe College, Harvard, in the United States before moving to Canada in the 1940's. In 1953, she began work as a landscape consultant in Toronto.
Lister specialized in private residential gardens. In the mid 1950's she appeared regularly on the CBC television program "Living," and she published intermittently in the Globe & Mail and Chatelaine. In 1957, she joined the newly formed Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority as an appointee to the Conservation Areas Advisory Board. She served on the board until 1978 and was fundamental in helping to develop a strategy for the use of conservation areas. Lister frequently represented the interests of Canadian landscape architects at international conferences in Europe, and North and South America. She was very interested in all the details of a landscape including the furnishings. This interest led her to design a line of Ontario Design Award-winning fiberglass planters which were manufactured under the name Gardenglass.
Lois Lister designed many gardens for Toronto's prominent citizens: Paul J. Phelan, George Black, Montague Black and Conrad Black (including the Black family plot in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery), H.N.R. Jackman, Anthony Adamson, Joe Rotman, the Bacardi family, George Chater, William Heaslip, and Karl Heisey of Burlington. She worked with many architects (Horne Residence: Ron Thom, Klamer Residence: Irving Grossman) but always felt that her work with Napier Simpson was amongst her best. Her gardens, including her use of stone and paving detailing and planting design, defined the appearance of the more affluent parts of the city. After a distinguished career, Lois Lister died in Toronto in 1995.
In 1996, Maurice W. Lister donated materials related to the life work of his late wife. These records consist of over 300 separate files for projects carried out for 250 individual clients. Each file contains a wide variety of items — Lister's extensive working notes, sketches and drawings; large working designs and architectural blueprints (often with hand written annotations); detailed lists of plants, shrubs and trees used in plantings; correspondence and memos, estimates from Lister and sub-contractors and invoices. Of major significance are the photographs and slides taken by Lister to illustrate the existing landscape/garden, her work in progress, and the final outcome of the design in full flower. There are also many slides and photographs that illustrate over 40 clients' landscapes without any accompanying project materials.
Lois Lister's work, reputation, and significance as a landscape architect and garden designer is well attested. Indeed, she had an international reputation even though her activities were mainly in Ontario. She was an early member and one of the first women admitted to the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, and was also an Associate of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Her influence on her profession was profound.
The Lois Lister fonds can be consulted in the University of Guelph Library's catalogue, PRIMO. Also, the Lister family and the library have established an endowment fund in her name to support the development of landscape architecture archives at Guelph.
5.25 m of textual and other material
ca. 1766 photographs : mostly col.
ca. 5991 slides : col.
ca. 2096 prints and drawings : mostly blueprints and whiteprints
24 transparencies : col., (Fujichrome)
2 mounted photographs : col.