Description of Historic Place
The Former Bank of Upper Canada, located at 46 West Street, is situated on the north side of West Street between Waterloo Street and the Courthouse Square, in downtown Goderich. The two-storey red-brick commercial building was constructed in 1863.
The property was designated by the Town of Goderich in 1992 for its historical or architectural value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 5 of 1992). It is also a contributing resource in the West Street Heritage Conservation District.
Located within the West Street Heritage Conservation District across from the Town Hall and just west of the Courthouse Square, the Former Bank of Upper Canada Building makes a significant contribution to the commercial streetscape of downtown Goderich.
The Former Bank of Upper Canada Building was constructed in 1863 to house the Goderich branch of the Bank of Upper Canada. The branch office was originally identified as 44 West Street, at the street level entrance, to the west of the building. The porch entry at the centre of the building, 46 West Street, was the entrance to the bank manager's family residence. A lower entry and staircase to the original “service” area took delivery of goods to run the household and was known as 48 West Street. Travellers and merchants who frequented the Goderich port eventually moved up the hill, expanding business and commerce throughout the entire market square; bounded by Waterloo, Nelson, Victoria and Elgin, using the services of the Bank of Upper Canada. Running into sudden difficulties, the Bank of Montreal, the largest bank in North America at the time, took over the operations of this branch in 1867.
The Former Bank of Upper Canada building serves as a reminder of the failure of this bank and other early banks, which resulted in a transformation in Canadian banking. The Bank Act of 1871 was instituted requiring extensive reporting and inspections of banks and eventually supervision by the federal government. These changes gave rise to the concept of banking as a public utility.
The Former Bank of Upper Canada is a fine example of the Georgian style of architecture used in commercial buildings in the later 19th century. Once commonplace, elegant commercial buildings such as this one have now become rare in western Ontario and this bank building stands as a testament to early downtowns. Typical of the Georgian style are the symmetrical proportions and the simple yet elegant detailing in the brickwork. Two chimneys contribute to this detailing and the overall design of the structure as they are incorporated into the stepped gables. The façade displays a symmetrical arrangement of six-over-six windows with louvered wooden shutters and an elevated central entrance with sidelights and a transom.
On the west end of the façade is a protruding second entrance accompanied by a single paned storefront window, both highlighted with similar fanlights. The separate front entrances met the mixed-use needs of the structure. The raised central entrance and the protruding second entrance, allowed residential activities to occur on the upper floors without disturbing the banking operations below. Also of note are the eight fireplaces which once warmed the interior and the bank vault which is used as a secure storage place today.
Source: Town of Goderich By-law 5 of 1992.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Former Bank of Upper Canada include its:
- two-storey red-brick construction
- stepped gable roof
- two chimneys at each gable end
- symmetrical proportions
- 6 over 6 windows with louvered wooden shutters
- single-paned storefront window and fanlight west of the central entrance
- stone voussoirs
- elevated central entrance with sidelights and transom
- wooden front porch
- protruding entrance on the west end of the façade including fan light
- eight interior fireplaces
- original bank vault
- location within a commercial streetscape in downtown Goderich, west of the Courthouse Square and south of the Town Hall