1889 – 1978
Who was Joseph Sunlight?
Born Novogrudok, Belarus, then part of Russia, his Jewish family were named Schimschlavitch, his father a cotton merchant. In later life, Sunlight enjoyed to "dine out" on tales of his family's adventures and brushes with the Tsarist authorities but it is suspected that these were largely fanciful. The family emigrated to England in 1890 to avoid conscription and settled in Manchester, probably choosing their new name from Port Sunlight.
Sunlight was apprenticed to an architect in Manchester in 1904 and by 1907 had his own practice in St Ann's Square. Reputedly, by 1910, he had designed and built more than 1000 houses in Prestwich and claimed that by 1921 he had created more than one million pounds' worth of property.
He also designed and built factories and warehouses but his greatest memorial is Sunlight House. In 1949, he proposed a 40-storey extension but it was rejected by the city council. His sole religious building was the technically innovative South Manchester Synagogue.
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