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Bank of Nova Scotia


Other Names:
"The Bank"
Bank of Nova Scotia Building

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Bank of Nova Scotia building is a one-story steel frame, brick and sandstone masonry structure designed largely in the Modern Classical style, and located on two lots and a small portion of a third along the historic Stephen Avenue mall in downtown Calgary. The facade is delineated by four pilasters. The rectangular window bays and front door are adorned with elaborate carving and bronze balconets.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Bank of Nova Scotia building lies in its architectural significance as the first building in Alberta to introduce Canadian sculptural themes into a classical design, as well as in its association with its renowned Canadian architect, John M. Lyle. Further importance can be seen in the building's contribution to the historic Stephen Avenue streetscape.

Built in 1930, the Bank of Nova Scotia building is an excellent example of the kind of architectural eclecticism that was popular in banks of the period. Designed to convey a sense of solidity and security, this bank building is impressive in the proportions and symmetry of its flattened classical facade. This rational plan is characteristic of architect John M. Lyle's Beaux-Arts classicism, and yet the building pushes the limits of that style in many of its decorative elements. Of primary significance is the program of low relief sculptural panels adorning the main facade. Designed by Lyle, these panels depict such western Canadian themes as agriculture, commerce, and ranching. The incorporation of such imagery into a traditionally classical building was groundbreaking, and the Bank of Nova Scotia building remains an outstanding example of such a sculptural program in Alberta. The traditional interpretation of a bank as a classical temple has here been reconciled by Lyle with a modern emphasis on linearity, its decoration and interior materials moving decidedly toward the streamlined Art Deco style.

Born in Belfast in 1875, the esteemed architect John M. Lyle trained at both Yale and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris before settling in Canada. His major Canadian projects include several works as the chief architect for the Bank of Nova Scotia, and as a contributor to the design of Union Station in Toronto. He is regarded not only as one of Canada's premier Beaux Arts architects, but also as one of the originators of the Modern Classical style.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 141)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Bank of Nova Scotia building include such features as:
- rectangular form and massing;
- Indiana limestone, granite base;
- sculpted panels relief elements on the facade depicting western Canadian agricultural, commercial, and ranching themes;
- entablature with the inscription "The Bank of Nova Scotia" in frieze;
- fluted pilasters topped with ornate capitals;
- bronze balconets;
- exterior wall sconces;
- vaulted and flat ceilings with octagonal coffering;
- 1930 glass skylight;
- granite flooring;
- marble wainscoting;
- plaster walls with pilaster elements.


Street Address: 125 - 8 Avenue SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Lots 7 and 8 and a Portion of Lot 9, Block 63, Plan A
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
11 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
9 (ptn.)

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.045318 -114.064596 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1981/02/27

Historical Information

Built: 1930 to 1930
Period of Significance:
Theme(s): Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Bank or Stock Exchange
Current Function(s):
Architect: John M. Lyle

The Nova Scotia Bank building is a unique bridge between classicism and modernism in Alberta architecture. It was constructed in 1930 according to the designs of the distinguished Canadian architect, John M. Lyle. Lyle reconciled the traditional interpretation of the bank as classical temple with a modern emphasis on linearity and art deco detailing in the Calgary sandstone sheathing.

The flat, rationalized facade features symbolic carvings related to important resources of western Canada. These carvings and the bronze grill work on the windows constitute one of the most beautiful and interesting sculptural programs to be found on an Alberta building. The banking hall is lit by a large sky light, set in a ceiling sheathed with moulded gold leaf. The combination of classical and art deco detailing is continued in the interior.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0451
Designation File: DES 0141
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 25024
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 141)
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