The former Bank of British North America Building is located at 49 Yonge St (at Wellington St E) in the Financial District of Toronto.
The Heritage Building’s Design
Built in 1872/73, 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.
The heritage-designated building was later a CIBC branch and, more recently, the former Irish Embassy Pub & Grill.
Did You Know?
Before this structure, the bank had another handsome building at this location from 1845 to 1871. John Howard designed the previous building. He was also the architect behind Colborne Lodge. John and his wife Jemima lived at Colborne Lodge and then deeded it along with the 165-acre country property to the City of Toronto in 1873. We know it today as High Park.
This photo was in the Toronto World newspaper’s December 29, 1912 edition. 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, the Bank of Montreal merged with the bank to enlarge its operations. The opulent structure was later occupied by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and its offices. The beautifully restored building (also known as the British Colonial Building) received heritage status in 1973.