Calgary Landmarks – The Historical Dominion Bank Building
When passersby’s unfamiliar with the history of Calgary see the old sandstone buildings standing in downtown such as the Dominion Bank, Fairmont Palliser Hotel or Knox United Church, it can definitely spark some interest into the past of “the heart of the new west”.
Today, sandstone buildings are few and far between in downtown Calgary. Truth is that these historical landmarks tell a unique story about the city’s past, one about the practicality and resourcefulness of Calgarians at a time long before high-rise office towers and condos made their debut on the skyline.
*Photo – Dominion (Toronto Dominion) Bank Provincial Historic Resource, Calgary (June 2003), Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2003
Fire of 1886
That story begins with a fire that broke out in 1886 in the city centre, destroying many of the then wooden structures found in the area. As a means of preventing such destruction in the future, City Council passed a mandate requiring all public buildings to be constructed using a fire retardant material.
Design + Architecture
One of the structures built after the mandate was the Dominion Bank, a beautiful early-twentieth century sandstone and marble building covered with a clay-based ceramic also known as terra cotta.
Located on the corner of Stephen Avenue and 1st Street SE, construction of the three-story building was completed in 1911 while an additional modern floor added years later.
Its bones consist of steel beams, reinforced concrete and brick. Its north and east side show the brick supporting structure, while the south and west facades have a sandstone base and are clad in the beautifully tiled terra cotta, giving these two sides a marble-like finish.
It’s symmetrical, Roman-like front columns, façade and entablature embody the Beaux-Arts architectural style. This style was prominent during the pre-First World War era in Canada and was used for many large commercial, governmental and financial buildings.
Aspects of the Beaux-Arts style include:
- Symmetrical front façade
- Coupled iconic columns flanked by two engaged columns
- Arch front
The Dominion Bank’s architecture is very much in line with other financial institutions built across the country during bank expansion into the west between 1900 and 1914.
The massive and imposing style was meant to promote feelings of stability and solidity about the business (or bank) within.
Expansion into the West
The Dominion Bank was created in 1869 and opened its first Alberta branch in Calgary in 1906. In 1909, the financial institution purchased this property and began construction on the Dominion Bank Building the same year, completing it in 1911.
The building served as the Dominion Bank’s headquarters in Alberta until the merger with the Bank of Toronto in 1951.
The Dominion Bank Building is of particular significance as a Calgary Landmark because it’s the only bank building in the province to be tiled with a terra cotta façade. This exterior finish gives the structure’s exterior a marble-like appearance on its west and south sides.
The bank is also a prime example of the Beaux-Arts architectural style that was common during Canada’s early years for such buildings and will forever stand as one of the most notable Calgary landmarks there is.
*Photo – Dominion Bank Building, Calgary (circa 1912), Glenbow Archives, PD-322-14
Today, Teatro Ristorante currently resides within the iconic building. It has an exemplary patio space that backs out onto Olympic Plaza while being within walking distance to most office towers in the downtown core.
If you’re looking to experience some Calgary history and culinary tastes all at once, you’ll definitely want to check this place out!
More Calgary Landmarks
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