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CNHS - Former Bank of British North America
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Bon Echo
N 47° 33.947 W 052° 42.379
22T E 371653 N 5269451
Quick Description: One of the oldest commercial buildings in St. John’s
Location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Date Posted: 5/9/2019 8:48:14 PM
Waymark Code: WM10HD2
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Weathervane
Views: 1

Long Description:

Constructed in 1849, making it one of the oldest commercial buildings in the city, the building served as Newfoundlands first commercial bank building. Four different banks would operate here until 1985:

  • The Bank of British North America (1849-1857)
  • The Commercial Bank of Newfoundland (1857-1894)
  • The Bank of Montreal (1895-1894 and 1962-1985)
  • The Newfoundland Savings Bank (1894-1962).

The Former Bank of British North America was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada on March 1, 1991. A plaque affixed to the front wall of the building reads:


This Italianate style building recalls the evolution of banking in Newfoundland. Designed by Halifax architect David Stirling for the Bank of British North America, it opened in 1850 at a time when British investors controlled banking in the colony. Subsequent local ownership by the Commercial Bank (1857-1894) and the Savings Bank (1897-1962) points to a long and vibrant period when Newfoundland investors shaped the colony's financial institutions. The Bank of Montreal then operated here until 1985, bringing to a close the building's remarkable 135-year history as a bank.

Cet édifice de style à l'italienne rappelle l'évolution de l'activité bancaire à Terre-Neuve. Conçu par l'architecte David Stirling de Halifax pour la Bank of British North America, l'immeuble a ouvert ses portes en 1850, époque où les investisseurs britanniques contrôlaient les banques de la colonie. Accueillant ensuite des banques locales, la Commercial Bank (1857-1894) et la Savings Bank (1897-1962), il illustre la longue quête des investisseurs terre-neuviens pour façonner leurs propres institutions financières. La Banque de Montréal occupa enfin les lieux jusqu'en 1985, complétant les 135 années de son histoire bancaire.

The following description of the building and it's significance is taken from the Canadian Register of Historic Places website:

Description of Historic Place

The Former Bank of British North America National Historic Site of Canada is located within the Heritage Conservation Area of St. John’s, Newfoundland. This impressive three-and-a-half-storey brick building with a mansard roof, stone façade, and Italianate features housed Newfoundland’s major banks from 1849 to 1985. Today it is occupied by the College of the North Atlantic’s Anna Templeton Centre as a learning facility. Official recognition refers to the legal limits of the property at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

The Former Bank of British North America was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1991 because:
- its close associations to the evolution of banking in Newfoundland;
- this Italianate style recalls the evolution of banking in Newfoundland.

The heritage value of the Former Bank of British North America resides in its long-term association with banking in Newfoundland. The building’s status is reflected in its Italianate style, its substantial institutional presence in both the interior and exterior, its composition, and its site and setting.

The Former Bank of British North America was built in 1849 to plans by Halifax architect David Stirling. Constructed in the Italianate style, a style popular in Canada during this period for commercial architecture including banks, it housed Newfoundland’s first commercial bank (founded in 1835) from 1849-1857. After that, it continued to be occupied by major banking operations for more than a century: the new Commercial Bank of Newfoundland (1857-1894), the Bank of Montreal (1895-1897), then the Newfoundland Savings Bank (1897-1962) and again the Bank of Montreal (1962-1985). A mansard roof was added to the building in 1885, leaving its original exterior largely intact. The bank’s interior was destroyed by the Great Fire of St. John’s and rebuilt in 1892-1894.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1991.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its rectangular footprint and cube-like three-and-a-half storey massing;
- its mansard roof with dormers;
- the organization of its main façade in three equal bays, each topped by a pedimented dormer;
- its diminishing layered horizontal composition, with stringcourses, and progressively lower and less ornate levels from bottom to top;
- its Italianate style features, notably its ground floor faced with rusticated stonework and tall segmentally-arched windows decorated with lion heads, its ornate Renaissance style window surrounds with carved brackets on the second floor “piano nobile”, its smaller square third-storey windows, and prominent moulded cornice with scrolled brackets supported on carved pilasters;
- its original exterior materials including stone facing over brick walls on the ground floor façade, and brick above with finely crafted details;
- surviving 19th-century interior layout and finishes, notably its rich late Victorian furnishings and fittings of wood, plaster, panelling, tile, stained glass and pressed metal;
- the continuity of long-term access and circulation patterns;
- the bank’s sympathetic setting in the St. John’s Heritage Conservation Area.

Source: , accessed May 2019

Classification: National Historic Site

Province or Territory: Newfoundland & Labrador

Location - City name/Town name: St John's

Link to Parks Canada entry (must be on [Web Link]

Link to [Web Link]

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