Born in Hamilton, Ontario, William Bryce Mundie was the grandson of an early Scottish architect and son of a Toronto architect. He attended the Hamilton Collegiate Institute and had a three-year apprenticeship to an architect in Canada. In 1884, at the age of twenty-one he immigrated to Chicago and began working as draftsman for architect, engineer, and landscape designer William Le Baron Jenney. Most famous for his contributions to the development of the skyscraper, Jenney is also noteworthy for training and mentoring several significant Chicago architects. Jenney recognized Mundie’s talent, and soon began promoting him, making him a full partner in 1891. The following year, Mundie married Jenney’s niece, Bessie Russell Jenney.
The firm of Jenney & Mundie designed many notable buildings such as the Ludington Building, the New York Life Building (now known as 39 S. LaSalle St. Building) and the Horticultural Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Jenney retired in 1905, and Mundie added a third partner, Elmer Jensen (who had begun working for them as an office boy). The firm was known as Jenney, Mundie & Jensen until Jenney died two years later. Mundie & Jensen took two senior draftsmen into partnership in 1936, and the firm became Mundie, Jensen, Bourke & Havens. After Mundie’s death in 1939, the partners retained his name until 1952, when they assumed the name Jensen, McClurg & Halstead.
Mundie was active in Chicago’s professional architectural organizations. He was a charter member of the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club (later known as Chicago Architectural Club). He was a member of the Illinois Society of Architects (AIA), a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and also served successively as first and second vice president of the AIA.
Mundie was appointed as architect to the Board of Education in 1899, during a period of expansion and reform. The city’s growing population and new compulsory education and child labor laws triggered rapid increases in student enrollment. A commission headed by renowned educator William Rainey Harper had recently issued a report outlining detailed recommendations for improvements to the board and its management of Chicago’s schools. During his four-year tenure, Mundie produced many Classically-inspired schools that responded to these reform efforts. His work included the Chicago Parental School (no longer extant), Wendell Phillips High School, and Armour, Coonley, Hamilton, Patrick Henry, Plamondon, Darwin, Jungman, and Sullivan elementary schools.