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Flat Iron Building


Other Names:
Merchant's Bank
Flatiron Block
Flatiron Building
Former Merchant’s Bank
Merchant's Bank (Former)

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Flat Iron Building is an early twentieth century Edwardian Classical Revival style, three-storey triangular-shaped brick and sandstone building situated at a prominent corner location on a triangular block in downtown Lacombe.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Flat Iron Building lies in its distinctive architectural style and design and its association with two financial institutions, the Merchant's Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal that played an important role in the development of Lacombe and many other communities throughout Alberta in the early part of the twentieth century.

The Flat Iron Building is a rare example of a commercial building following the style of the 1902 Fuller Building in New York. While buildings of this shape were constructed in North America in the late nineteenth century, the Fuller, more commonly referred to as the Flatiron Building, is considered by many as the prototype of buildings of this type, so named for their distinctive triangular shape that resembled a flat iron. Flat Iron Buildings were fashionable throughout North American at the turn of the twentieth century, however few remain. Constructed in 1903-4 by the Merchant's Bank of Canada, Lacombe's Flat Iron Building is one of two intact, Pre-World War I remaining in Alberta and is the oldest known building of this type in Western Canada. The basic design of the building is typical of the dominant architecture preferred by financial institutions of the time, to convey a sense of power, security and reliability to customer's and competitors alike.

The building was occupied by the Merchant's Bank of Canada from 1904 until its purchase by the Bank of Montreal in 1922. The Bank of Montreal continued to occupy the building until 1967. Through the provision of financial services, both the Merchant's Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal played a significant role in the early development of not only the Town of Lacombe, but many other communities throughout the province.

The Flat Iron Building is the most prominent building in Lacombe and is a well-known landmark throughout central Alberta.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (Des. File: 1715)

Character-Defining Elements
Character-defining elements of the Flat Iron Building's distinctive shape and Edwardian Classical style include:
- form, scale, massing of a triangular, "flat iron" building;
- the exterior masonry: a rusticated sandstone base, brick walls with horizontal relief bands on the first floor, and sandstone pilasters through the second and third storeys;
- the denticulated wood cornices with ornamental brackets;
- the fenestration and door patterns, with original wooden windows where they remain, sandstone sills, two palladian windows with voussoirs and one round window;
- a scallop-shaped hood with decorative brackets over the main entrance on the corner;
- a decorated frieze;
- traces of the original banking hall on the main floor; and
- hardwood floors.


Street Address: 5005 - 50 Avenue
Community: Lacombe
Boundaries: Portions of Lot 1 and 2, Block 5, Plan RN1 (I)
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

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

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
RN1 (I)
RN1 (I)

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
52.462965 -113.730838 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1990/01/16

Historical Information

Built: 1903 to 1904
Significant Date(s) 1904 to 1967
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Bank or Stock Exchange
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Office or Office Building

The Lacombe Flatiron Block was constructed in 1903-1904 by the Merchants Bank. The Merchants Bank originally opened for business in Lacombe on February 28, 1901. The arrival of the Merchants Bank was recognition of Lacombe's development following the construction of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway in 1891. The passage of the railway through the town not only created the triangular shaped block on which the "flatiron" building is the most prominent feature, it also gave vitality to its business sector. In addition to being on the main north-south transportation corridor through the province, Lacombe also was the terminal of the Canadian Pacific Railway line running east from Central Alberta to Winnipeg. Therefore, Lacombe's central location provided convenient passenger and freight connections to the major centres in the province and to eastern Canada.

The building opened in 1904 and served as the only financial institution in the area until the construction of the adjacent Union Bank in 1907. The decision to build with fire-resistant materials proved wise as a fire in 1906 razed the remainder of the business block. As a result, all new construction in the block followed the bank's example.

The Merchant Bank (Flat Iron Building) was certain Lacombe's most sophisticated and commanding structure. Designed in the Beaux Arts tradition of classically-inspired architecture, it cost $30,000 to build in 1904. The design, however, set this structure apart; specific classical features includes the giant order pilasters or simulated columns which run through the second and third stories, a cornice along the top of the structure and scallop-shaped hood over the main entrance. The three-storey "flatiron" building is unique in the Town of Lacombe and the oldest of three structures built in western Canada.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0499
Designation File: DES 1715
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 22703
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. 1715)
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