Bank of British North America – A Magnificent Toronto Gem

1912 - Bank of British North America
1912 – Bank of British North America

The former Bank of British North America, now the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill, is located at ‪49 Yonge St‬ (at Wellington St E) in the Financial District of Toronto.

The Heritage Building’s Design

Built in 1875, this Second Empire style building, made from Ohio sandstone, was designed by Henry Langley. In 1903, alterations were made to the exquisite structure by the design team of Burke & Horwood who kept many of the key architectural features. They include the mansard roof with intricately detailed iron cresting and ornate arched dormers. Other features include stone pilasters with Corinthian capitals and arched windows with carved keystones.

The Yonge St entrance features one of the City’s finest examples of a bracketed pediment with a keystone face. The entrance was originally on Wellington St however it was moved to Yonge St as it was becoming Toronto’s major thoroughfare. Highlights of the interior banking room include white marble detailing, central columns and a high vaulted ceiling.

Did You Know?

Prior to this structure, the bank had another handsome building at this location from 1845 to 1871. The previous building was designed by John Howard. He was also the architect behind Colborne Lodge. John and his wife Jemima lived at Colborne Lodge then deeded it along with the 165-acre country property to the City of Toronto back in 1873. We know it today as High Park.

1912 - Bank Messengers on the south side of Bank of British North America building
1912 – Bank Messengers on the south side of Bank of British North America building

This photo was in the December 29, 1912 edition of the Toronto World newspaper. The caption read: “Millions of dollars in other people’s money. In the daily routine of the bank messengers is the conveyance of cheques, drafts, and other business instruments from the various banking offices to the Toronto Clearing House, which is situated in the Bank of British North America Building at the corner of Yonge and Wellington Streets. The daily clearings of the city-run in the neighbourhood of seven million dollars.””

About the Bank

The Bank of British North America was founded in the 1830s and was operated by British investors who controlled banking in the colony. In 1918 and to enlarge its operations, the Bank of Montreal merged with the bank. The opulent structure was later occupied by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and also offices. The beautifully restored building (also known as the British Colonial Building) received heritage status in 1973.

The Irish Embassy Pub & Grill

2020 - Entrance to the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
2020 – Entrance to the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill

Today, it’s home to the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill. Their menu features a fusion of classic Irish pub fare with modern flavours.

Menu items include Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash, Beef Cottage Pie, vegetarian options and more. They have an extensive wine, whiskey and cocktail selection plus the pub is available to host social events.

Bank of British North America Photos

2020 - Bank of British North America building
2020 – Bank of British North America building
1912 - Bank of British North America
1912 – Bank of British North America
Bank of British North America building at Yonge & Wellington Sts in Toronto (2020)
Bank of British North America building at Yonge & Wellington Sts in Toronto (2020)
1890 - Bank of British North America with main entrance the Wellington St E (Toronto Public Library r-1626)
1890 – Bank of British North America with the main entrance on Wellington St E (Toronto Public Library r-1626)
1912 - Track construction on Yonge St at Wellington St, looking northeast
1912 – Track construction on Yonge St at Wellington St, looking northeast
1912 - Bank Messengers on the south side of Bank of British North America building
1912 – Bank Messengers on the south side of Bank of British North America building
1915 - Bank of British North America at Yonge & Wellington Sts (Toronto Public Library r-6298)
1915 – Bank of British North America at Yonge & Wellington Sts (Toronto Public Library r-6298)
1970/72 - CIBC (Bank of British North America building) at Yonge & Front Sts, looking north
1970/72 – CIBC (Bank of British North America building) at Yonge & Front Sts, looking north
1979 - Restoration work on Bank of British North America building
1979 – Restoration work on Bank of British North America building
2020 - Beautiful details on the British Bank of North America building
2020 – Beautiful details on the British Bank of North America building
2020 - Entrance to the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
2020 – Entrance to the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
1856 - Previous Bank of British North America building at Yonge & Wellington Sts
1856 – Previous Bank of British North America building at Yonge & Wellington Sts
2020/1912 - Irish Embassy Pub & Grill/Bank of British North America at 49 Yonge St
2020/1912 – Irish Embassy Pub & Grill/Bank of British North America at 49 Yonge St (City of Toronto Archives)
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