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 of Montreal’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 building’s main doors on the southeast corner. 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, a conference room, a 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.
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 sent back to Ireland.
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 using the bank’s revolver (at the time, it was common practice for banks to keep one on the premises). Detectives never found a reason why. Dorothy had no need for money as she had a healthy bank account. But, rumours swirled about an affair Dorothy may have been having with the married bank manager, who was said to have broken off their relationship the night before she died.
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.
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 in 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, 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.
The Bank of Montreal was founded as the Montreal Bank in 1817.
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.