Logged in as user  [Login]  |
Return to Search Results Printable Version

Bank of Montreal Building


Other Names:
1930 Bank of Montreal Building
Bank of Montreal
Bank of Montreal Building (1930)

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Bank of Montreal Building is a three-storey building located at the historic centre of downtown Calgary on the corner of 8th Avenue and 1st Street SW. Embodying the Beaux Arts architectural style, the monumental building is clad in Tyndall limestone on a granite plinth and boasts a visually commanding front facade featuring four fluted Corinthian columns, a heavy entablature bearing the words "BANK OF MONTREAL", and a broad pediment enclosing a sculptural relief of the Bank of Montreal's coat-of-arms.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Bank of Montreal building lies in its association with the establishment and consolidation of financial institutions in Calgary and in its monumental Beaux Arts style of architecture.

The Bank of Montreal was among the first financial institutions to establish itself in Calgary, founding its first branch west of Winnipeg in the fledgling community in 1886. The Bank of Montreal's early interest in Calgary is unsurprising: as the principal bank of the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.), the corporation had a vested interest in promoting the settlement's growth. Initially, the bank operated out of rented quarters in the Lineham Block; by the late 1880s, this arrangement was inadequate to accommodate the increasing service demands of a growing population and expanding economy. In 1889, the bank erected a handsome three-storey sandstone building on 8th Avenue and 1st Street SW to serve as its central Calgary branch. The building's central location and stately, picturesque architecture served to solidify the image of the Bank of Montreal as Calgary's major financial institution. During its early history in Calgary, the bank financed a multitude of entrepreneurial projects, including many in southern Alberta's burgeoning ranching industry, and also provided funds for city projects like the purchase of fire-fighting equipment. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Bank of Montreal worked diligently to maintain its advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Between 1906 and 1924, two new offices were opened and three chartered banks were incorporated into the Bank of Montreal's operations. By the late 1920s, the bank had firmly established its position as a premier financial institution in Calgary.

By 1930, the Bank of Montreal's central Calgary branch - with its turreted corner tower and lively, picturesque design - had become something of an architectural anomaly. The classical idiom had come to dominate the architecture of financial institutions in the first decades of the twentieth century and several of the bank's chief competitors had erected impressive classicist buildings that seemed to embody industry virtues of strength and permanence. Perhaps fearful that the irregular and playful design of its main branch projected the wrong qualities, the Bank of Montreal tore down the building and between 1930 and 1932 constructed a monumental Beaux Arts style structure on the same site. Initially planned as a twelve-storey office building, the bank's far more modest four-storey single purpose structure reflects the downturn in economic fortunes in Canada with the onset of the Great Depression. Designed by Kenneth G. Rea, a renowned architect who designed more than one hundred and twenty bank branches across Canada, the Bank of Montreal Building is a steel frame structure exhibiting the rich sculptural detail and monumental scale which made the Beaux Arts style so popular for institutions that wished to project an image of wealth, dignity and stability. The front facade is a bold classicist design composed of Tyndall limestone on a granite plinth and features fluted Corinthian columns, a heavy entablature bearing the words "BANK OF MONTREAL", and a broad pediment enclosing a sculptural relief of the bank's coat-of-arms. The interior is lavishly appointed, with a thirty-five foot high coffered ceiling finished in gold leaf, Corinthian columns, extensive use of marble, and classical sculptural elements. Sizable windows suffuse the inner space with natural light. As a limestone-clad building among a host of sandstone structures along 8th Avenue, the Bank of Montreal is a unique contributor to the historic ambience of Calgary's Stephen Avenue Mall.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1702)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Bank of Montreal Building include such features as:

- location at central intersection in Calgary's historic downtown core;
- form, scale and massing distinguished by its extended three-storey height, rectangular plan with light well; flat roof with straight parapets;
- steel-frame, reinforced-concrete, brick and clay block construction; Tyndall limestone cladding in ashlar finish with detailing and ornamentation comprising Corinthian columns, pilasters and entablature, and pediment enclosing a sculptural relief of the bank's coat-of-arms; gray granite base;
-incised inscriptions including ‘BANK OF MONTREAL’ (in entablature), ‘MDCCCXVIIIMCMXXX’ (atop main entrance), ‘1931’ and signature of architect (base)
- central main entrance with brass, double doors heavily ornamented in relief; asymmetrical secondary entrance of main facade with inset bronze panel sculpted in relief sculpture above; west-facade entrance with brass double doors;
- fenestration, with a variety of window types including metal-sash, single-light, main-floor and upper-floor windows with single-light hopper transoms ; ornamented main-floor, three-part metal-sash windows with each part comprising single-light or divided casement sashes, and three-part transom lights with each part comprising a single-light hopper-sash, and ornamented frames; upper-storey, metal-sash windows with two-part single-light casement sashes and single-light, hopper-transom light;
- rooftop metal-frame skylights, and brick elevator penthouse.

The interior character-defining elements of the Bank of Montreal include but are not limited to:
- lofty banking hall with coffered polychrome and gilded plaster ceiling; Corinthian columns and pilasters with gilded capitals; bronze chandeliers; gray, black and red marble flooring; polychrome and gilded plaster wall with decorative and sculptural panels; variety of marble wall finishes including wainscot and radiator cases; brass ornamentation and hardware such as panels and grilles; secondary doorway assembly; inset mezzanine clock
-the manager’s office (ground floor) with walnut panelled walls and doors; fireplace with carved walnut mantle, black marble surround and hearth.


Street Address: 140 - 8 Avenue SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Lots 39 and 40, Block 50, Plan A
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

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

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.045873 -114.065214 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2003/08/28

Historical Information

Built: 1930 to 1930
Period of Significance:
Theme(s): Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Bank or Stock Exchange
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect: Kenneth G. Rea
Builder: Smith Brothers, with Wilson A. Turton as construction superintendent

The Bank of Montreal has always played an important role in the development of Calgary. As the principal banker to the Canadian Pacific Railway, it had a vested interest in Calgary's growth and prosperity. In 1886, it opened its first branch in Calgary, at the time its only branch west of Winnipeg. The decision to erect a much larger bank in 1930 reflected the expansion in the Bank of Montreal during the previous decade with the takeover of three smaller charter banks between 1919 and 1925. The fact that a two-storey single purpose bank was constructed instead of a twelve-storey office building as originally proposed, was an indication of the declining economic prospects which existed during the Depression.

(Historical Interest Summary)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0845
Designation File: DES 1702
Related Listing(s): 4664-0182
Heritage Survey File: HS 62591
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. 1702)
Return to Search Results Printable Version

Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve.

Home    Contact Us    Login   Library Search

© 1995 - 2024 Government of Alberta    Copyright and Disclaimer    Privacy    Accessibility