The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building is located at 25 King St W (between Bay and Yonge Sts) in the Financial District of Toronto.
The graceful 34-storey structure was built between 1929 to 1931. It was designed by Toronto-based architect John Pearson (of Darling & Pearson) together with New York City’s leading bank architect firm of 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 465 ft or 142 m. The landmark was said to be the “greatest addition to Toronto’s increasing, Manhattan-like skyline.”
The Refined Exterior
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 structure is made of steel and concrete, then cased with Indiana limestone on an Ontario granite base. On the 32nd floor, there’s an observation deck. This floor can be distinguished at the street level by the 16 head sculptures that cap the piers. These gigantic sculptures with their flowing beards are each 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
The E-shaped ground floor of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building features remarkable vaulted and coffered ceilings that are 60 ft high. The main entrance, from King S W, is the centre hall. It leads to the elevator lobby with bronze elevator doors etched with maple leaf and wheat sheaf designs. The centre hall also leads to the Main Banking Hall, which runs the entire width of the building, from east to west. The walls are purple-hued limestone, while the floors are Italian travertine with marble inlay. 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 that flank the east and west sides are for the Savings Bank and the Foreign Exchange Bank. Each of their ceilings have 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.
- The structure is made of 9,300 tons of steel with 190,000 cubic feet of stone as well as 6,633 sq yards of marble and tile.
- There are 15 elevators and four basements.
- The building opened on January 14, 1932, and the bank occupied the first nine floors.
- The vaulted main hall is said to be modelled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.
- There are 715 ounces of gold leaf in the main hall ceiling.
- The skyscraper was the tallest in Canada until 1962, when the La Tour CIBC in Montreal was completed. It’s 604 ft or 184 m tall.
- The tower was the tallest in Ontario until the mid-1960s when the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower at the southwest corner of King and Bay Sts was finished. Also, until that time, there were unobstructed views of the entire city from the observation deck of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building.
- The landmark received heritage status in 1973.
- In 1818, the site was home to the First Methodist Church in Toronto.