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

1930's - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking east
1930’s – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking east

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) and 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

2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, southeast side
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, southeast side

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 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

2020 - Main Bank Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – Main Bank Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building

The E-shaped ground floor of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building features remarkable vaulted and coffered ceilings 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 building width 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 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.
  • The structure is made of 9,300 tons of steel with 190,000 cubic feet of stone and 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 central 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.

Canadian Bank of Commerce Building Photos

2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking southwest
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking southwest
1930's - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking east
1930’s – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking east
2020 - Main Bank Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – Main Bank Hall of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1931 - Savings Bank area of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1931 – Savings Bank area of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building bronze light fixture suspended from vaulted and coffered ceiling
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building bronze light fixture suspended from vaulted and coffered ceiling
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building tower top with bearded head sculptures capping the piers
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building tower top with bearded head sculptures capping the piers
1950's - 32nd-floor observation deck of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking northwest
1950’s – 32nd-floor observation deck of the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking northwest
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building vaulted and coffered ceilings with shadow domes in the background
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building vaulted and coffered ceilings with shadow domes in the background
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building World War I Memorial
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building World War I Memorial
2020 - Elevator lobby in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 – Elevator lobby in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building artwork
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building artwork
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking southeast
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, looking southeast
1931 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building nearly completed - taken from Royal York Hotel
1931 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building nearly completed – taken from Royal York Hotel
1931 - Looking north from waterfront towards Royal York Hotel, Harbour Commission & Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1931 – Looking north from waterfront towards Royal York Hotel, Harbour Commission & Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1931 - Barber Shop in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1931 – Barber Shop in the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building
1929 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building steelwork, looking south
1929 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building steelwork, looking south
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, southeast side
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, southeast side
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building bronze owl
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building bronze owl
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building bronze door and clock in the elevator lobby
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building bronze door and clock in the elevator lobby
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building entrance
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building entrance
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building water fountain
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building water fountain
2020 - Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, west side
2020 – Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, west side
2021 - The south side of The Canadian Bank of Commerce
2021 – The south side of The Canadian Bank of Commerce
2021 - The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building heritage plaque
2021 – The Canadian Bank of Commerce Building heritage plaque
2020 - Plaque on Canadian Bank of Commerce Building - First Methodist Church site in 1818
2020 – Plaque on Canadian Bank of Commerce Building – First Methodist Church site in 1818
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