Bank of Montreal – Architectural Work of Art, now the Hockey Hall of Fame

Between 1900 and 1920 - The Bank of Montreal on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W
Between 1900 and 1920 – The Bank of Montreal on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 224-1)

Originally the Bank of Montreal, today’s Hockey Hall of Fame is located at 30 Yonge St (at Front St W on the northwest corner) in the Financial District of Toronto.

The Impressive Architecture

Built between 1885/87, this magnificent structure was designed by architects Darling & Curry. Some say its style of architecture is Beaux-Arts, while others say Rococo. The estimated cost for the bank’s new Ontario head office was $100,000.

Made from Ohio freestone, the building exudes an air of opulence with its many carved stonework details.

Customers entered the Banking Room, a grand hall through the main doors on the southeast corner of the building. The banking room is three stories in height. The lower portion of the walls is covered in rich cherrywood; the upper walls and ceiling feature elaborate plasterwork crowned with a stained glass dome.

Holbrook and Mornington of Toronto designed the plasterwork at the cost of $3,000. Throughout the room, an ornate cornice is supported by fluted columns. The octagonal-shaped ceiling is divided by eight ribs that run from the wall to the dome’s edge, and inside them are panels.

The stunning stained glass dome depicts mythological figures with provincial emblems and was designed by the Toronto-based McCausland family glasswork company. The dome is covered on the outside by a skylight.

The bank had vaults, offices, conference room, kitchen, luncheon rooms, washrooms and custodial apartments.

Great Fire of Toronto of 1904

In the great fire that destroyed over 100 buildings in the downtown core, the Bank of Montreal was spared. There was only one building between the bank and another left in complete ruins.

1959 - Police at the Bank of Montreal on Yonge St and Front St W during a robbery
1959 – Police at the Bank of Montreal on Yonge St and Front St W during a robbery (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0119357F)

Notable Robberies

It took 43 years, but the bank had its first theft in 1921. Police knew pretty quickly that it was an inside job. An exchange teller stole over $21,000 to cover nearly two years of shortages.

A more daring robbery attempt occurred in 1959. Two brothers broke into the bank through the roof one weekend. Unable to open the ancient treasury vault, they stayed inside and waited until staff came in for work on Monday morning. As staff and customers arrived, the brothers tied them up, 83 people in total. No one was physically hurt. The robbers got away and were eventually caught and charged with other robberies, sentenced to ten years in prison and were sent back to Ireland.

1958 - The Bank of Montreal at the northwest corner of Front St W and Yonge St - notice the water tower in the background
1958 – The Bank of Montreal at the northwest corner of Front St W and Yonge St – notice the water tower in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 52, Item 1)

Haunted Tales

In 1982, the Toronto Star interviewed the bank’s chief messenger, Len Redwood. He held the position from 1952 to 1977 and was a leading authority on the old building. Mr Redwood was there during the 1959 robbery but said that he mostly remembers the day Dorothy, a young and beautiful teller, came to work very early one morning in 1953. A normally put-together person, she appeared dishevelled and distraught. That day, Dorothy took her life upstairs in the building. Detectives never found a reason why. There was no evidence of a rumoured affair and no need for money as Dorothy had a healthy bank account.

Since then, Len and others experienced lights switching off by themselves, heavy doors creaking open, and feeling that they were not alone. Staff have also heard footsteps behind them and felt hands on their shoulders. Mr Redwood, who insisted he did not believe in ghosts, said, “When the bank moves out, and the old building seems to be empty, Dorothy will still be there.” Click for more haunted tales.

Closing its Doors

Since 1845, a Bank of Montreal branch had been located at the corner of Yonge St and Front St W. After 137 years of service, the present-day building was in great need of repair and the branch closed in 1982.

2019 - The entrance of the Hockey Hall of Fame on the lower level of Brookfield Place at 30 Yonge St
2019 – The entrance of the Hockey Hall of Fame on the lower level of Brookfield Place at 30 Yonge St

The Hockey Hall of Fame

The former bank structure remained dormant for nearly a decade before it was purchased to build BCE Place (today’s Brookfield Place). As a part of the agreement with the city, the historic building was to be restored and made available to a non-profit cultural institution. The Hockey Hall of Fame was a perfect fit, and in 1993, Canada’s “cathedral for the icons of hockey” opened. The museum expected 325,000 visitors the first year, but they exceeded that with a half million.

The banking room is now known as Esso Great Hall. It features many major NHL trophies on display, as well as portraits and biographical sketches of members. A bank vault houses the original Stanley Cup donated by Lord Stanley, championship rings and more. There are 57,000 sq ft of exhibits, interactives and theatres. Visitors can go one-on-one against animated life-size versions of today’s hockey superstars or call the play in some of hockey’s best moments.

Before moving to its present-day location, The Hockey Hall of Fame was located at Exhibition Place grounds, across from the Food Building. It opened in 1961 and shared space with Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Over time, the Hockey Hall of Fame needed a larger facility.

2020 - The Hockey Hall of Fame in the former Bank of Montreal at 30 Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
2020 – The Hockey Hall of Fame in the former Bank of Montreal at 30 Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner

Did You Know?

  • From 1839 to 1845, a post office was located on the site.
  • From 1845 to 1885, the corner was home to the bank’s previous High Renaissance-style building. It was designed by Ireland-born Kivas Tully when he was 25 years old. Mr Tully went on to design many churches, civic buildings and more throughout Ontario.
  • When the building opened in 1887, BMO customers earned 3% for saving accounts, and mortgages were 4%.
  • The building’s brick-backed walls are 0.9 m or 3 ft thick, and where the columns rise, they’re 1.4 m or 4.5 ft thick.
  • The dome is 13.7 m or 45 ft from the floor to its centre, 9.8 m or 32 ft in diameter and has 500 sq ft of glass. It was one of the first banks in the city to bring light into a banking hall.
  • In 1990, Andrew McCausland restored the stained glass his Great-Grandfather, Robert McCausland, created over a century before. In 1991, the glasswork received federal heritage designation.
  • Windsor-based Barnum’s Wire Works designed the ornamental metalwork, including the fence on the south side.
  • Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame was located in Stanley Barracks (yes, Lord Stanley, who the cup is named after) during the Canadian National Exhibition in 1955.
  • In 1973, the Bank of Montreal building was a part of Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list. Three years later, it was given designation from Ontario Heritage Trust.
  • Since 1977, BMO’s Ontario head office has been located in First Canadian Place at 100 King St W.
  • In the early 1990s, restoration of the historic building cost $27 million.

Bank of Montreal / Hockey Hall of Fame Photos

Between 1900 and 1920 - The Bank of Montreal on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W
Between 1900 and 1920 – The Bank of Montreal on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 224-1)
1982 - Looking northwest from Yonge St and Front St W towards the Bank of Montreal - notice the modernized clock and glass doors
1982 – Looking northwest from Yonge St and Front St W towards the Bank of Montreal – notice the modernized clock and glass doors (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 102, Item 11)
2020 - The Hockey Hall of Fame in the former Bank of Montreal at 30 Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
2020 – The Hockey Hall of Fame in the former Bank of Montreal at 30 Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
1950 - Looking northeast from Front St W, just west of Yonge St towards the Bank of Montreal and the former Toronto Board of Trade Building
1950 – Looking northeast from Front St W, just west of Yonge St towards the Bank of Montreal and the former Toronto Board of Trade Building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 183)
1973 - Looking northeast from Yonge St and Front St W - notice the King Edward Hotel and the Cathedral Church of St James steeple in the background
1973 – Looking northeast from Yonge St and Front St W – notice the King Edward Hotel and the Cathedral Church of St James steeple in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 52, Item 4)
1973 - Bank of Montreal, looking northeast from Front St W, just west of Yonge St - notice the King Edward Hotel in the background
1973 – Bank of Montreal, looking northeast from Front St W, just west of Yonge St – notice the King Edward Hotel in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 52, Item 3)
1958 - The carved stonework details on the Bank of Montreal
1958 – The carved stonework details on the Bank of Montreal (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 52, Item 2)
1958 - The Bank of Montreal at the northwest corner of Front St W and Yonge St - notice the water tower in the background
1958 – The Bank of Montreal at the northwest corner of Front St W and Yonge St – notice the water tower in the background (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 52, Item 1)
1904 - Looking west along Front St from just east of Yonge St after the Great Fire of Toronto 1904
1904 – Looking west along Front St from just east of Yonge St after the Great Fire of Toronto 1904 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 7561)
1950 - Looking west towards the Bank of Montreal from Yonge St and Front St
1950 – Looking west towards the Bank of Montreal from Yonge St and Front St (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 160)
1959 - Police at the Bank of Montreal on Yonge St and Front St W during a robbery
1959 – Police at the Bank of Montreal on Yonge St and Front St W during a robbery (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0119357F)
1950 - The entrance of the Bank of Montreal at Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
1950 – The entrance of the Bank of Montreal at Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 112)
2021 - The original wooden and metalwork doors and the carved stone details of the former Bank of Montreal, today's Hockey Hall of Fame at Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
2021 – The original wooden and metalwork doors and the carved stone details of the former Bank of Montreal, today’s Hockey Hall of Fame at Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
2019 - Sculptures at the Hockey Hall of Fame at 30 Yonge St and Front St W
2019 – Sculptures at the Hockey Hall of Fame at 30 Yonge St and Front St W
2019 - The entrance of the Hockey Hall of Fame on the lower level of Brookfield Place at 30 Yonge St
2019 – The entrance of the Hockey Hall of Fame on the lower level of Brookfield Place at 30 Yonge St
1888 - Looking north up Yonge St from Front St with the Bank of Montreal on the left
1888 – Looking north up Yonge St from Front St with the Bank of Montreal on the left (Toronto Public Library R-1637)
1949 - An aerial view looking north up Yonge St from Front St - notice the skylight covering the dome on the roof of the Bank of Montreal on the left and the Board of Trade Building on the right
1949 – An aerial view looking north up Yonge St from Front St – notice the skylight covering the dome on the roof of the Bank of Montreal on the left and the Board of Trade Building on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1567, Series 577, Item 14)
1950s - Looking north up Yonge St from south of Front St - the tall building behind the Bank of Montreal is the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1950s – Looking north up Yonge St from south of Front St – the tall building behind the Bank of Montreal is the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 206)
1968 - Looking northwest from Yonge St, just south of Front St towards the Bank of Montreal
1968 – Looking northwest from Yonge St, just south of Front St towards the Bank of Montreal (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 52, Item 4)
2020 - The Hockey Hall of Fame in the former Bank of Montreal at Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
2020 – The Hockey Hall of Fame in the former Bank of Montreal at Yonge St and Front St W, northwest corner
1890 - The Bank of Montreal on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W
1890 – The Bank of Montreal on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W (Toronto Public Library R-2012)
1867 - The first Bank of Montreal at the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St from 1845 until 1885
1867 – The first Bank of Montreal at the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St from 1845 until 1885 (Toronto Public Library R-2026)
An illustration of the post office that was located on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W from 1839 to 1945
An illustration of the post office that was located on the northwest corner of Yonge St and Front St W from 1839 to 1945 (Toronto Public Library R-5192)
1961 - The former Hockey Hall of Fame at Exhibition Place from 1961 until 1992
1961 – The former Hockey Hall of Fame at Exhibition Place from 1961 until 1992 (CNE Heritage, Alexandra Studio Fonds, File 469, Item 1)
Between 1967 and 1971 - The former Hockey Hall of Fame/Canada's Sports Hall of Fame at Exhibition Place
Between 1967 and 1971 – The former Hockey Hall of Fame/Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame at Exhibition Place (CNE Heritage, Postcard Collection, File 28, Item 1)
2020 - The entrance of the former Hockey Hall of Fame preserved at BMO Field - Gate 5, Exhibition Place
2020 – The entrance of the former Hockey Hall of Fame preserved at BMO Field – Gate 5, Exhibition Place
SOURCE
  • City of Toronto Heritage Register: 30 Yonge St
  • Ontario Heritage Trust: 30 Yonge St
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: May 21, 1886, pg 2
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 1, 1887, pg 8
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Feb 25, 1921, pg 1
  • The Globe Newspaper Archives: Mar 2, 1921, pg 7
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Nov 30, 1962, pg 1
  • The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Jul 9, 1982, pg B3
  • Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Aug 1, 1982, pg H3
  • Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Jun 25, 1990, photo from Toronto Public Library
  • Toronto Architecture: A City Guide by Patricia McHugh (2007), pg 79
  • Hockey Hall of Fame
  • Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
  • Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library & Canadian National Exhibition Archives