Canadian Bank of Commerce Building – Toronto’s Most Elegant Skyscraper

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1930s – An aerial view looking east towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located at 25 King St W, in Toronto's Financial District. The 34-storey structure was built between 1929 to 1931
1930s – An aerial view looking east towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located at 25 King St W, in Toronto’s Financial District (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 409)

The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is located at 25 King St W (between Bay St and Yonge St on the south side) in the Financial District of Toronto.

The graceful “monument of finance” was built between 1929 to 1931. It was designed by Toronto-based architect John Pearson (of Darling & Pearson) and New York City’s leading bank architect firm York & Sawyer. The building was going to be worth an estimated $4 million. When completed, it was considered a skyscraper and was the tallest building in the British Empire at 142 m or 465 ft. The landmark was said to be the “greatest addition to Toronto’s increasing, Manhattan-like skyline.

The Refined Exterior

2020 – Looking northwest toward the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building from Jordan St and Melinda St, two of Toronto's oldest streets named after Jordan Post and his wife, Melinda. In 1802, Mr Post arrived from Connecticut. The town of York's first watch and clockmaker, Mr Post, also did well in real estate, purchasing land on King St W, between Yonge St and Bay St
2020 – Looking northwest toward the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building from Jordan St and Melinda St, two of Toronto’s oldest streets named after Jordan Post and his wife, Melinda

With its Romanesque Revival style detailing, the elegant structure begins with a six-storey podium at the base. This supports a tower that rises in tiers, allowing for natural light in the city’s core. The 34-storey structure is made of steel and concrete, then encased with Indiana limestone on an Ontario granite base.

Encircling the 32nd floor is an observation deck which can be distinguished at the street level by the 16 head sculptures that cap the piers. These gigantic sculptures with flowing beards are each 7.3 m or 24 ft high and represent Courage, Observation, Foresight and Enterprise. They were said to symbolize the forever watchfulness of the financier, looking in every direction across Canada. On the top floor is a penthouse topped with a hipped roof.

The Spectacular Interior

2020 - The Main Banking Hall in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building was said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome
2020 – The Main Banking Hall in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building was said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome

The ground floor of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is E-shaped. The main entrance, from King St W, is the centre hall. In it is the elevator lobby with bronze elevator doors etched with maple leaf and wheat sheaf designs.

The centre hall leads to the Main Banking Hall, which runs the entire building width from east to west. It’s said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, which was built around 216 AD. The floors are Italian travertine with marble inlay, while the walls are purple-hued limestone. Its vaulted ceiling stands 18 m or 60 ft high and combines larger octagonal with smaller square coffers in gold and blue colours.

Suspended from the Main Banking Hall ceiling are enormous bronze light fixtures with circular ceiling plaques that read Commerce, Industry, Integrity and Prudence. There’s also a World War I memorial on the south side of the hall.

The other two halls flank the east and west sides are for the Savings Bank and the Foreign Exchange Bank. Each of their ceilings has eight shadow domes atop Doric piers.

Interesting Facts about the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building

  • Plans to build the bank were delayed by 15 years due to the following factors: World War I, construction costs after the war and an uncertain labour environment.
  • During excavation, a 20 m or 65 ft deep trench was dug for the building’s substructure. About 10.6 m or 35 ft of which was rock.
  • The structure is made of 9,300 tons of steel with 190,000 cubic feet of stone, 6,633 sq yards of marble and tile and 1.5 million bricks.
  • There are 15 elevators and four basements.
  • The building opened on January 14, 1932.
  • Bank staff occupied the first nine floors along with the basement levels. The 10th to 31st floor was office space. Any space that was available to rent had all been leased a year before the building opened.
  • It was estimated that 3,000 people worked in the building.
  • There are 715 ounces of gold leaf in the central hall ceiling.
  • The skyscraper was the tallest in Canada until 1962 when the La Tour CIBC in Montreal was completed. It’s 184 m or 604 ft tall.
  • The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building was the tallest in Ontario until the mid-1960s when the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower at the southwest corner of King St W and Bay St was finished. Also, until then, there were unobstructed views of the entire city from the observation deck of the structure.
  • The intersection of King St W and Bay St was once known as the “MINT” corner. It was an acronym for the banks that stood there: Montreal Bank, Imperial Bank, Nova Scotia Bank, and Toronto Bank.
  • The landmark received heritage status in 1973.
  • In 1818, the site was home to the First Methodist Church in Toronto, which the Metropolitan United Church at 56 Queen St is a descendant of.

Canadian Bank of Commerce Building Photos

2020 - The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is located at 25 King St W, between Bay St and Yonge St in Toronto's Financial District. The landmark was said to be the "greatest addition to Toronto's increasing, Manhattan-like skyline."
2020 – The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is located at 25 King St W, between Bay St and Yonge St in Toronto’s Financial District. The landmark was said to be the “greatest addition to Toronto’s increasing, Manhattan-like skyline.”
1930s – An aerial view looking east towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located at 25 King St W, in Toronto's Financial District. The 34-storey structure was built between 1929 to 1931
1930s – An aerial view looking east towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located at 25 King St W, in Toronto’s Financial District. The 34-storey structure was built between 1929 to 1931 (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 409)
2020 - The Main Banking Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The remarkably beautiful interior features Italian travertine floors with marble inlay, purple-hued limestone walls and 18 m or 60 ft tall vaulted and coffered ceilings
2020 – The Main Banking Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The remarkably beautiful interior features Italian travertine floors with marble inlay, purple-hued limestone walls and 18 m or 60 ft tall vaulted and coffered ceilings
2020 - A bronze light fixture suspended from the vaulted and coffered ceiling in the Main Banking Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The circular ceiling plaque reads: "Commerce, Industry, Integrity and Prudence"
2020 – A bronze light fixture suspended from the vaulted and coffered ceiling in the Main Banking Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The circular ceiling plaque reads: “Commerce, Industry, Integrity and Prudence”
January 13, 1931 - Savings department of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. This photo was taken the day before the landmark officially opened
January 13, 1931 – Savings department of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. This photo was taken the day before the landmark officially opened (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 22910)
2020 - Looking toward the area that was originally the Savings department in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – Looking toward the area that was originally the Savings department in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1961 - An aerial view looking northeast towards the former Toronto Star Building once at 80 King St W and the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W in the Financial District
1961 – An aerial view looking northeast towards the former Toronto Star Building once at 80 King St W and the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W in the Financial District (Toronto Public Library TSPA-0118802F)
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W was once the tallest building in the British Empire. The skyscraper was designed by the Toronto architectural firm Darling & Pearson and the New York City-based firm York & Sawyer
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W was once the tallest building in the British Empire. The skyscraper was designed by the Toronto architectural firm Darling & Pearson and the New York City-based firm York & Sawyer
2022 – The slightly recessed entrance to Commerce Court North from King St W. The arched entrance features beautiful and ornate stonework carvings
2022 – The slightly recessed entrance to Commerce Court North from King St W. The arched entrance features beautiful and ornate stonework carvings
2023 - Stonework details over the main entrance of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W. The tympanum features a bas-relief sculpture with Mercury (the patron of bankers) holding a caduceus or wand. On either side of Mercury are female figures which represent Commerce and Industry; one is holding an airplane and the other a tablet. Behind the figures are depictions of a ship, a lighthouse, the top portion of the building, a grain elevator and five Canada geese. The arch over the tympanum is inscribed with "THE CANADIAN BANK OF COMMERCE"
2023 – Stonework details over the main entrance of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W. The tympanum features a bas-relief sculpture with Mercury (the patron of bankers) holding a caduceus or wand. On either side of Mercury are female figures which represent Commerce and Industry; one is holding an airplane and the other a tablet. Behind the figures are depictions of a ship, a lighthouse, the top portion of the building, a grain elevator and five Canada geese. The arch over the tympanum is inscribed with “THE CANADIAN BANK OF COMMERCE”
1950s - Looking northwest from the 32nd-floor observation deck of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The great carved head is one of 16 sculptures watching over the building
1950s – Looking northwest from the 32nd-floor observation deck of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The great carved head is one of 16 sculptures watching over the building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 168)
2022 – The top four tiers of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building with the 68-storey Scotia Plaza tower in the background. Notice the carved head sculptures capping the piers on the 32nd floor of the CIBC building
2022 – The top four tiers of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building with the 68-storey Scotia Plaza tower in the background. Notice the carved head sculptures capping the piers on the 32nd floor of the CIBC building
2020 – The bronze winking owl in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. An owl often symbolizes wisdom and knowledge
2020 – The bronze winking owl in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. An owl often symbolizes wisdom and knowledge
2020 - The vaulted and coffered ceilings inside the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The shadow domes in the background are in an area originally known as the Savings department. Notice the Diocletian windows outline in the limestone wall below the arch
2020 – The vaulted and coffered ceilings inside the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The shadow domes in the background are in an area originally known as the Savings department. Notice the Diocletian windows outline in the limestone wall below the arch
2020 - The World War I Memorial inside the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building reads: 

"This screen is dedicated to the memory of those of our staff who gave their lives in The Great War - 1914-1918 

These laid the work away; poured out the red sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be of work and joy and that unhoped serene, that men call age; and those that would have been, their sons, they gave, their immortality"
2020 – The World War I Memorial inside the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building reads:

“This screen is dedicated to the memory of those of our staff who gave their lives in The Great War – 1914-1918

These laid the work away; poured out the red sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be of work and joy and that unhoped serene, that men call age; and those that would have been, their sons, they gave, their immortality”
2020 – Ornate bronze metalwork on the entrance to the Control Room at the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – Ornate bronze metalwork on the entrance to the Control Room at the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 - The elevator lobby in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The bronze elevator doors are etched with maple leaf and wheat sheaf designs
2020 – The elevator lobby in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. The bronze elevator doors are etched with maple leaf and wheat sheaf designs
2020 – A bronze light fixture hanging from the gold colour octagonal and square panelled ceiling in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. Notice the caduceus (wand) motif on the corner of the light. This design of two serpents entwined around a wand surmounted by wings was the staff carried by Mercury, the patron of bankers
2020 – A bronze light fixture hanging from the gold colour octagonal and square panelled ceiling in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. Notice the caduceus (wand) motif on the corner of the light. This design of two serpents entwined around a wand surmounted by wings was the staff carried by Mercury, the patron of bankers
2020 – The elegant bronze drinking fountain inside the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – The elegant bronze drinking fountain inside the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – A bronze door and clock in the elevator lobby at the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – A bronze door and clock in the elevator lobby at the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 - Artwork in the hallway to what was originally the Savings bank area of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. Created by Hamilton-born artist Arthur Crisp, it's one of several painted wall panels that depict the evolution of transportation in the British Empire, especially in Canada
2020 – Artwork in the hallway to what was originally the Savings bank area of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. Created by Hamilton-born artist Arthur Crisp, it’s one of several painted wall panels that depict the evolution of transportation in the British Empire, especially in Canada
2020 - Looking southeast towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located at 25 King St W, in Toronto's Financial District. The graceful 34-storey structure was built between 1929 to 1931
2020 – Looking southeast towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located at 25 King St W, in Toronto’s Financial District. The graceful 34-storey structure was built between 1929 to 1931
Circa 1931 – Looking northeast from the Royal York Hotel towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located on 25 King St W, in Toronto's Financial District. The skyscraper was the tallest in Canada until 1962 when the La Tour CIBC in Montreal was completed
Circa 1931 – Looking northeast from the Royal York Hotel towards the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building located on 25 King St W, in Toronto’s Financial District. The skyscraper was the tallest in Canada until 1962 when the La Tour CIBC in Montreal was completed (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 10049)
March 11, 1931 – Looking north from the waterfront towards (from left to right) the Royal York Hotel, the Toronto Harbour Commission and the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
March 11, 1931 – Looking north from the waterfront towards (from left to right) the Royal York Hotel, the Toronto Harbour Commission and the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 23372)
January 12, 1931 - The barber shop in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. This photo was taken two days before the official opening of the building
January 12, 1931 – The barber shop in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. This photo was taken two days before the official opening of the building (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 22907)
2020 – Looking northwest toward the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building from Jordan St and Melinda St, two of Toronto's oldest streets named after Jordan Post and his wife, Melinda. In 1802, Mr Post arrived from Connecticut. The town of York's first watch and clockmaker, Mr Post, also did well in real estate, purchasing land on King St W, between Yonge St and Bay St
2020 – Looking northwest toward the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building from Jordan St and Melinda St, two of Toronto’s oldest streets named after Jordan Post and his wife, Melinda. In 1802, Mr Post arrived from Connecticut. The town of York’s first watch and clockmaker, Mr Post, also did well in real estate, purchasing land on King St W, between Yonge St and Bay St
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building tower top with bearded head sculptures capping the piers. The elegant 34-storey building features Romanesque Revival-style detailing
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building tower top with bearded head sculptures capping the piers. The elegant 34-storey building features Romanesque Revival-style detailing
2020 – Looking east from Bay St towards the side of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. With its Romanesque Revival style detailing, the elegant structure begins with a six-storey podium at the base
2020 – Looking east from Bay St towards the side of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. With its Romanesque Revival style detailing, the elegant structure begins with a six-storey podium at the base
Circa 1930 - Looking east along King St W from York St towards the twin towers of King St W in downtown Toronto. The one on the left is The Toronto Star Building, and the other is the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building during construction
Circa 1930 – Looking east along King St W from York St towards the twin towers of King St W in downtown Toronto. The one on the left is The Toronto Star Building, and the other is the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building during construction (Toronto Public Library TSPA-0113108F)
1940s - An aerial view looking east along King St E from York St in Toronto's Financial District. The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is on the far right. The tall white building in the foreground is the former Toronto Star building which was constructed in 1929 and demolished in 1972
1940s – An aerial view looking east along King St E from York St in Toronto’s Financial District. The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is on the far right. The tall white building in the foreground is the former Toronto Star building which was constructed in 1929 and demolished in 1972 (TorontoJourney416.com postcard collection)
July 24, 1929 – Steelwork construction on the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. A 20 m or 65 ft deep trench was excavated for the skyscraper's substructure and approximately 10.6 m or 35 ft of which was rock
July 24, 1929 – Steelwork construction on the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. A 20 m or 65 ft deep trench was excavated for the skyscraper’s substructure and approximately 10.6 m or 35 ft of which was rock (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 17427)
2020 – The King St W entrance to the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in Toronto's Financial District
2020 – The King St W entrance to the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in Toronto’s Financial District
2023 – A stone carving of a lion at the entrance of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. A lion often symbolizes courage, strength and majesty
2023 – A stone carving of a lion at the entrance of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. A lion often symbolizes courage, strength and majesty
2021 – Looking towards the south side of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building from the courtyard. The six-storey podium supports a tower that rises in tiers, allowing for natural light in the city’s core
2021 – Looking towards the south side of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building from the courtyard. The six-storey podium supports a tower that rises in tiers, allowing for natural light in the city’s core
2021 – The rear entrance on the south side has the name band "THE CANADIAN BANK OF COMMERCE"
2021 – The rear entrance on the south side has the name band “THE CANADIAN BANK OF COMMERCE”
2022 – Looking southeast along King St W toward the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building and Yonge St
2022 – Looking southeast along King St W toward the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building and Yonge St
2021 – Looking north from the courtyard towards the south side of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in the Financial District of Toronto
2021 – Looking north from the courtyard towards the south side of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in the Financial District of Toronto
2022 - The address plate next to the Commerce Court North entrance of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W in Toronto
2022 – The address plate next to the Commerce Court North entrance of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building at 25 King St W in Toronto
2022 - The heritage plaque reads:

The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building 1929-1931

"Upon completion, this 34-storey skyscraper was the tallest building in the British Empire and was praised as the "greatest addition to Toronto's increasing, Manhattan-like skyline." It was designed for The Canadian Bank of Commerce jointly by the Toronto firm Darling and Pearson and by York & Sawyer, the foremost New York City bank architects of the era. Rising in tiers, the building features richly carved Romanesque Revival detailing and a vaulted Main Banking Hall said to be modelled after Rome's Baths of Caracalla. A popular outdoor observation gallery on the 32nd floor - guarded by great carved heads with flowing beards - gave the public unobstructed city views until even taller office towers were built in the 1960s. After the Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada in 1961, the building became the head office of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce."

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1991 Heritage Toronto 2006
2022 – The heritage plaque reads:

The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building 1929-1931

“Upon completion, this 34-storey skyscraper was the tallest building in the British Empire and was praised as the “greatest addition to Toronto’s increasing, Manhattan-like skyline.” It was designed for The Canadian Bank of Commerce jointly by the Toronto firm Darling and Pearson and by York & Sawyer, the foremost New York City bank architects of the era. Rising in tiers, the building features richly carved Romanesque Revival detailing and a vaulted Main Banking Hall said to be modelled after Rome’s Baths of Caracalla. A popular outdoor observation gallery on the 32nd floor – guarded by great carved heads with flowing beards – gave the public unobstructed city views until even taller office towers were built in the 1960s. After the Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada in 1961, the building became the head office of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.”

Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1991 Heritage Toronto 2006
2023 – The cornerstone at the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building reads:

ERECTED AD: 1929
2023 – The cornerstone at the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building reads:

ERECTED AD: 1929
2022 – The plaque reads: “The first Methodist Church in Toronto was built upon this site in A. D. 1818”
2022 – The plaque reads:

“The first Methodist Church in Toronto was built upon this site in A. D. 1818”
2022 – The plaque for the first Methodist Church is located on the east façade by King St W on the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. In 1818, the site was home to the First Methodist Church in Toronto, which Metropolitan United Church at 56 Queen St E is a descendant of
2022 – The plaque for the first Methodist Church is located on the east façade by King St W on the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building. In 1818, the site was home to the First Methodist Church in Toronto, which Metropolitan United Church at 56 Queen St E is a descendant of
2022 - Looking southeast towards Commerce Court at the corner of King St W and Bay St in the Financial District of Toronto. Notice Scotiabank on the left, the Canadian Bank of Commerce buildings in the centre and the TD Bank buildings on the right. The photo was taken in front of First Canadian Place which is home to the Bank of Montreal. The intersection of King St W and Bay St was once known as the "MINT" corner. It was an acronym for the banks that stood there: Montreal Bank, Imperial Bank, Nova Scotia Bank, and Toronto Bank
2022 – Looking southeast towards Commerce Court at the corner of King St W and Bay St in the Financial District of Toronto. Notice Scotiabank on the left, the Canadian Bank of Commerce buildings in the centre and the TD Bank buildings on the right. The photo was taken in front of First Canadian Place which is home to the Bank of Montreal. The intersection of King St W and Bay St was once known as the “MINT” corner. It was an acronym for the banks that stood there: Montreal Bank, Imperial Bank, Nova Scotia Bank, and Toronto Bank
2020 - The Main Banking Hall in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building was said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome
2020 – The Main Banking Hall in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building was said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome
1899 - A sketch of the interior of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome by Abel Blouet. The main hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in Toronto was said to be modelled after the interior of the Baths of Caracalla
1899 – A sketch of the interior of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome by Abel Blouet. The main hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building in Toronto was said to be modelled after the interior of the Baths of Caracalla (Courtesy of FA Genzmer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
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