ONE of York's best-known architects, whose signature black cats adorned many buildings across the city, has died aged 75.

Tom Adams, a father-of-three, from Aldwark, York, suffered a sudden heart attack while in bed at home on Saturday night.

Born in Halifax, Mr Adams first started signing his drawings with the distinctive animal while an architecture student in the 1950s.

But it was not until 1979 that he first put a black cat sculpture on his first design - the former Mothercare building in Coney Street.

Sharp-eyed observers will have spotted the signature black cats scampering or sitting along the city's high places - including Barnitts in Colliergate and the Meltons Too restaurant in Walmgate.

John Yeomans, a senior partner at solicitor's Harrowell Shaftoe, who was Tom's friend for 40 years, said he was "unique".

"Tom was one of those people whose company you always wished you didn't have to leave," he said.

"He was a very perceptive and businesslike person and a super designer, builder and innovator of buildings."

In 2004, Mr Adams, who was a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, brought together his favourite feline friends for a new book called Tomcats. He hoped the booklet would help people understand his passion.

His best-known architectural works also included the champagne bar at York Racecourse and Woods Mill, Skeldergate.

"His greatest strength was that he supported his clients with determination, argument and guile," said Mr Yeomans, who had a property designed and built by his friend.

"Tom was a true man of York and just loved it. His fun, gossip, jokes and limitless supply of ideas, coupled with his professionalism, made him unique."

Mr Adams' second wife, Gill, said: "He has done so much for York.

"He cared passionately about the city.

"Tom was fun loving and a little eccentric, everybody loved him."

Mr Adams leaves three children, Louise, Nicholas and Brook. Funeral arrangements are still being finalised.

Updated: 08:58 Wednesday, February 01, 2006