Description of Historic Place
The Bank of Montreal is situated between Wellington and Sparks streets, opposite to Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Constructed from a monumentally-scaled block of granite and limestone, the building features symmetrical façades and Modern Classical detailing. On its principal façades, large rectangular windows are separated by giant pilasters supporting an immense entablature. At the upper level, smooth surfaces serve as a foil for sculptured panels that carry nationalistic and didactic themes. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Bank of Montreal is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
Established in 1842, the Bank of Montreal is Canada’s oldest chartered bank and the first institution to establish a branch office in Ottawa. Specifically designed offices were built on the present site between 1872 and 1873, but in 1929, with changing architectural tastes and residential needs, the old buildings was demolished and replaced by the current structure, making it a very good example of local development.
The Bank of Montreal is valued for its excellent aesthetic design, exhibited in multiple architectural styles. The building features shallow, incised pilasters with simple cornices complimented by the flattened surfaces, sharply incised detailing and geometrical ornamentation derived from the Art Deco movement. The clarity of its massing and plan reveal the discipline of the architectural styles and demonstrate the very good functional design of the building. The bank’s excellent craftsmanship and materials usage compliments the Beaux-Arts style with the use of various marbles on the interior paired with Benedict stone walls and intricately crafted bronze fittings topped by an arched and coffered plaster ceiling. For its depiction of modernized Beaux-Arts design in Canada, the building won the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada gold medal, thus making it one of the best examples of Ernest Barott’s work in combining traditional bank design with philosophy and a nationalistic interpretation of international styles.
The Bank of Montreal reinforces the unchanged historic and economic character of the present area as the longest unbroken financial relationship in the economic life of the city. For its historical associations with the financial structure of the community and the country, the building remains a familiar landmark within the city signifying the strength and solidity of the Capital.
Sources: Dana Johnson, Bank of Montreal, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 85-00; Bank of Montreal, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 85-030.
The character-defining elements of the Bank of Montreal should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetic design, craftsmanship and materials, and very good functional design as evidenced by:
- its monumental massing, designed in the traditional temple form with a symmetrical façade, entablature and attic storey;
- its steel-frame construction, with a Stanstead granite base and Queenston limestone above;
- the elaborate Sparks Street and Wellington Street façades with central doorways with a carved moulding and a superimposed sculpture of the bank’s coat of arms above each;
- the arrangement of the tall narrow windows protected by intricately wrought metal screens;
- the Art Deco elements, including geometric ornamentation, sharply incised detailing and flattened surfaces;
- the Modern Classical elements, including its shallow, incised pilasters, plain plinths and moulded caps, a simple Doric architrave, and simple entablature,
- the allegorical and historical bas-reliefs (Emil Seiburn, sculptor) regularly disposed about its façades, which contributed to the search for a Canadian ornamental vocabulary active at that time;
- the interior layout of the building, including the spacious central banking hall;
- the interior materials, including marble floors with terrazzo inserts and mosaic inlay of intricate design, Benedict stone walls, black and gold marble dado bronze fittings, an arched and coffered plaster ceiling and bronze and stained glass light fixtures;
- the interior detailing, finishes and decoration, including marble sculpted figures and provincial coast of arms;
The manner in which the Bank of Montreal reinforces the present character of its streetscape, and preserved its unchanged historical relationship, is evidenced by:
-its prominent location on both Sparks Street and Wellington Street on one of the most accessible sites of the Ottawa downtown core;
- its design, function and location, which makes it a familiar landmark for residents of the city and tourists.
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Cnetre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection
The Bank of Montreal is a document of Canadian architectural accomplishment. That it is readable as such is a subtle but significant aspect of its heritage value. It is a considered work of architecture in which all elements are subsumed within and integral to its overall order. The entirety of its three visible façades and its major public interiors are essential to its heritage character. It is highly unlikely that any visible alteration to any element of the design would do other than diminish the value of the whole.
The architectural and historical interpretation of the building would be best served if it were to remain a bank.
For further guidance, please refer to the FHBRO Code of Practice.