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Union Bank Building

Fort Macleod

Other Names:
Union Bank

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Union Bank of Canada Building is a two-and-a-half storey commercial building situated on two lots within the Fort Macleod Provincial Historic Area. The scale of the building and its masonry construction are similar to other heritage properties within Fort Macleod's historic commercial core. The Union Bank of Canada Building is distinguished by its pressed metal mansard roof and roofline cresting.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Union Bank of Canada Building lies in its significance as an early and important bank that was vital to the historic commercial life of the Fort Macleod Provincial Historic Area. The Union Bank of Canada Building is also significant for its distinctive style, which embodies its historic importance as Fort Macleod's main bank for the first decade of the twentieth century.

Fort Macleod was initially established in 1874 by the North West Mounted Police as an island fort on the Oldman River. Persistent spring flooding resulted in the relocation of the North West Mounted Police barracks to a site on the south bank of the river west of the island in 1884. The community of businesses and settlers that had formed outside the fort followed the police, and the new site proved suitable for development as a service centre for the police force and the cattle industry in the southern foothills. By 1892 when the Calgary and Edmonton Railway reached the community, Fort Macleod had become large enough to be incorporated as the Town of Macleod.

As Macleod developed into the commercial center of a large ranching and farming hinterland, the community's need for financial institutions became more pressing. Early residents were first served by various itinerant bankers who traveled the southern prairies on behalf of larger banks located in Calgary. In 1897, the Union Bank of Canada opened the first major bank in Macleod. Three years later, the Union Bank moved into a new two-storey brick building built the year prior by David J. Grier, a former Northwest Mounted Police officer who had established himself as a prosperous rancher and entrepreneur. The lower space accommodated day-to-day banking operations, while the upper floor was reserved for office space and a dwelling for the manager. In 1902, a third floor mansard roof was added. The Union Bank of Canada remained Macleod's sole bank until 1911, when the Bank of Commerce opened its doors. Few banks of this vintage are extant in Alberta. The Union Bank of Canada Building embodies both the early growth of financial institutions in Macleod and the significance of banking to early Alberta communities.

The Union Bank of Canada building stands as a distinctive and prominent reminder of the town's optimism at the turn of the twentieth century. It was the first brick structure to be constructed in the downtown core and suggested a secure and solid permanence. It is a rare Alberta example of the Second Empire architectural style with its third storey mansard roof and iron cresting. The Union Bank of Canada Building symbolizes the importance of banking to a vibrant community envisioning a prosperous future as the region's major commercial centre. It is a strong contributor to the heritage character of Fort Macleod's historic commercial core.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des, 2278)


Character-Defining Elements
Character-defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Union Bank of Canada Building include:
- mass and form;
- three storey rectangular plan;
- brick construction;
- corbelled brick chimney;
- pressed metal mansard roof with iron cresting;
- dormers with pediments and pilasters;
- pressed metal cornice above brick frieze;
- hood moldings;
- sandstone window sills;
- angled main entrance at street corner;
- relatively small ground-floor windows suggestive of institutional banking windows.


Location



Street Address: 163 - 23rd Street
Community: Fort Macleod
Boundaries: Portions of Lots 28 and 29, Block 429, Plan 92B
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
26
9
12
13

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
92B
92B
429
429
29
28



Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.724868 -113.408993 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2011/01/17

Historical Information

Built: 1899 to 1899
Significant Date(s)
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s):
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder:
Context: Shortly after the arrival of the North West Mounted Police at Fort Macleod in 1874, a community began to develop on the river flats outside the fort. The community proceeded to grow with the growth of the cattle industry in the southern foothills, and, with the extension of the Calgary & Edmonton Railway to the community in 1892, Fort Macleod was large enough to be incorporated as the Town of Macleod with over 200 people. Into the 20th century, it remained the largest community between Calgary and Lethbridge, with its population hovering around 500 during the early part of the century.

Being at the center of a large ranching and farming hinterland, Macleod always saw much activity in its downtown core. One of the necessities of any commercial center was banking. Early residents were first served by various itinerant bankers who traveled the southern prairies on behalf of larger banks located in larger centers, in this case Calgary. In 1882, however, a small local bank was opened by John Cowdry and his brother called Cowdry Brothers Bank. John became the Town's first mayor in 1893, and also served in 1898 and 1899. In the meantime, Duncan J. Campbell, the district's first Sherriff, advertised in the Macleod Gazette that he "had money to loan."

The first major bank in Macleod was opened in 1897. This was a Union Bank of Canada managed by Duncan Anderson. In April 1900, the Union Bank moved into a new building on 23rd Street and 2nd Avenue built the year before by David J. Grier. This was a two story brick structure, with the upper floor reserved for office space and a dwelling for the manager. In 1902, a third floor mansard roof was added. Grier himself was a former Northwest Mounted Police officer who did well at cattle and ranching as well as business ventures in Macleod. He built the Grier Block and Empire Hotel, which he ran, as well as the Union Bank building. He became mayor of Macleod in 1901 and would serve 11 terms in this capacity.

Ownership of the Union Bank in Fort Macleod was assumed by the Bank itself in 1906. It saw several managers over the years until its merger with the Royal Bank of Canada in 1925, when its name changed to the Royal Bank. The Canadian Bank of Commerce had also been operating in Macleod at least since 1911. They remained the only two banks until 1936, when the Royal Bank was shut down and the bank building became another commercial property in Macleod, housing various businesses over the years.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The historical significance of the Union Bank of Canada lies in its service as the town's main bank from 1900 until about 1911, when the Bank of Commerce opened its doors. It is important too in its association with its builder, David J. Grier, who was a prominent local businessman and mayor of Macleod for 11 terms between 1901 and 1918.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1360
Designation File: DES 2278
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 34509
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. 2278)
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