Bank of British North America – A Magnificent Toronto Gem

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January 16, 1912 - Bank of British North America was once located at the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1698)
January 16, 1912 – Bank of British North America was once located at the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1698)

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.

December 29, 1912 - Bank Messengers on the south side of the Bank of British North America building
December 29, 1912 – Bank Messengers on the south side of the Bank of British North America building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 133)

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.

Bank of British North America Photos

2020 - The former Bank of British North America at ‪49 Yonge St and Wellington St E on the northeast corner in the Financial District of Toronto
2020 – The former Bank of British North America at ‪49 Yonge St and Wellington St E on the northeast corner in the Financial District of Toronto
January 16, 1912 - Bank of British North America was once located at the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1698)
January 16, 1912 – Bank of British North America was once located at the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1698)
Between 1977 and 1993 - Looking northeast towards the former Bank of British North America at the corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E in downtown Toronto
Between 1977 and 1993 – Looking northeast towards the former Bank of British North America at the corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E in downtown Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 615, Item 24)
2020 – Looking east from Yonge St towards the former Bank of British North America Building in the Financial District of Toronto
2020 – Looking east from Yonge St towards the former Bank of British North America Building in the Financial District of Toronto
January 1, 1970 - Looking northeast towards the CIBC, when it was located in the former Bank of British North America Building at the corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E in the Financial District of downtown Toronto
January 1, 1970 – Looking northeast towards the CIBC, when it was located in the former Bank of British North America Building at the corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E in the Financial District of downtown Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, ID 50)
2022 - The former Bank of British North America, also known as the British Colonial Building, at ‪49 Yonge St and Wellington St E on the northeast corner in the Financial District of Toronto
2022 – The former Bank of British North America, also known as the British Colonial Building, at ‪49 Yonge St and Wellington St E on the northeast corner in the Financial District of Toronto
1890 – Looking north up Yonge St from south of Wellington St E. The former Bank of British North America is on the right, and notice the bank's main entrance was off of Wellington St E
1890 – Looking north up Yonge St from south of Wellington St E. The former Bank of British North America is on the right, and notice the bank’s main entrance was off of Wellington St E (Toronto Public Library R-1626)
May 31, 1912 – Looking northeast towards the corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E in downtown Toronto. The Bank of British North America once occupied the building on the corner
May 31, 1912 – Looking northeast towards the corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E in downtown Toronto. The Bank of British North America once occupied the building on the corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Sub Series 58, Item 117)
December 29, 1912 - Bank messengers on the south side of the Bank of British North America building
December 29, 1912 – Bank messengers on the south side of the Bank of British North America building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 133)
2020 – The heritage building at the southeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E was originally home to the Bank of British North America. It was later a CIBC branch and, more recently, the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
2020 – The heritage building at the southeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E was originally home to the Bank of British North America. It was later a CIBC branch and, more recently, the Irish Embassy Pub & Grill
1915 – Looking north up Yonge St from south of Wellington St in Toronto’s Financial District. The Bank of British North America once occupied the first building on the right
1915 – Looking north up Yonge St from south of Wellington St in Toronto’s Financial District. The Bank of British North America once occupied the first building on the right (Toronto Public Library R-6298)
2022 – Looking east toward the former Bank of British North America at 49 Yonge St in the Financial District of Toronto
2022 – Looking east toward the former Bank of British North America at 49 Yonge St in the Financial District of Toronto
Between 1970 and 1972 - Looking north up Yonge St from Front St E towards the CIBC, once the Bank of British North America in the Financial District of Toronto
Between 1970 and 1972 – Looking north up Yonge St from Front St E towards the CIBC, once the Bank of British North America in the Financial District of Toronto (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 312, Item 92)
2022 - The former Bank of British North America, also known as the British Colonial Building, once at ‪49 Yonge St and Wellington St E on the northeast corner in the Financial District of Toronto
2022 – The former Bank of British North America, also known as the British Colonial Building, once at ‪49 Yonge St and Wellington St E on the northeast corner in the Financial District of Toronto
1979 - Restoration work on the Bank of British North America Building on the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E. Built in 1872/73, this Second Empire-style building was designed by architect Henry Langley
1979 – Restoration work on the Bank of British North America Building on the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E. Built in 1872/73, this Second Empire-style building was designed by architect Henry Langley (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 63, Item 57)
2020 – The former Bank of British North America, also known as the British Colonial Building
2020 – The former Bank of British North America, also known as the British Colonial Building
Circa 1873 – Looking east across Wellington St from just west of Yonge St in downtown Toronto. The building on the left, which is the present-day structure, is the Bank of British North America
Circa 1873 – Looking east across Wellington St from just west of Yonge St in downtown Toronto. The building on the left, which is the present-day structure, is the Bank of British North America
Between 1979 and 1984 - Looking northeast up Yonge St from south of Wellington St E in downtown Toronto. Notice the Bank of British North America Building on the right
Between 1979 and 1984 – Looking northeast up Yonge St from south of Wellington St E in downtown Toronto. Notice the Bank of British North America Building on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 613, Item 1)
2021 – The nameplate of the British Colonial Building, also the former Bank of British North America Building on the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E
2021 – The nameplate of the British Colonial Building, also the former Bank of British North America Building on the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E
1912 – Architect John Howard designed the previous Bank of British North America on the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E. The building was at this location from 1845 to 1871 and was replaced by the present-day structure in 1872/73
1912 – Architect John Howard designed the previous Bank of British North America on the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E. The building was at this location from 1845 to 1871 and was replaced by the present-day structure in 1872/73 (watercolour by Frederic Victor Poole – Toronto Public Library R-1983)
1856 – Architect John Howard designed the previous Bank of British North America building at the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E. The handsome building was at this location from 1845 to 1871 and was replaced by the present-day structure in 1872/73
1856 – Architect John Howard designed the previous Bank of British North America building at the northeast corner of Yonge St and Wellington St E. The handsome building was at this location from 1845 to 1871 and was replaced by the present-day structure in 1872/73 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1498, Item 3)
1890 - Goads Map showing the location of the former Bank of British North America
1890 – Goads Map showing the location of the former Bank of British North America (Toronto Public Library)
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