Description of Historic Place
The Bank of Nova Scotia, located in downtown Ottawa, is a rigorously Classical stone building designed in the Beaux-Arts style. Its proportions and overall simplicity is derived from a severe Doric order, while its fine stone craftsmanship and decorative details on the exterior and a generous banking hall on the interior contribute to its distinctly classical character. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Bank of Nova Scotia is a Classified federal heritage building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Bank of Nova Scotia is a very good example of the early 20th-century economic development and diversification of Ottawa, marking the dominance of Sparks Street in retail trade and office-sector financial activities. Chartered in 1832, the Bank of Nova Scotia was first contained within the 1874 building erected for the Bank of Ottawa on Wellington Street. In 1924, following the trend of movement away from this area, the bank was moved to Sparks Street.
The Bank of Nova Scotia is one of the best examples of John Lyle’s works, and is the most rigorously classical of his buildings. The clarity of the arrangement of details, the balance of the design and the reflection on the exterior, of the interior design, all embody the best of Beaux-Arts planning and exemplify its excellent esthetic design. Its Doric order respects archaeological precedent, while the detailing combines references to Canadian economic activities. The stonework treatments of the construction and the detailing demonstrate the excellent craftsmanship. The building’s composition is remarkable in its lucid proportions and achieves an overall simplicity, demonstrating a very good functional design.
By reinforcing the economic and historic character of its surroundings, the Bank of Nova Scotia has maintained an unchanged historical association with the streetscape, which make it a familiar landmark in downtown Ottawa.
Sources: Dana Johnson, Bank of Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 85-008; Bank of Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 85-008.
The character-defining elements of the Bank of Nova Scotia should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetic design, very good functional design and excellent craftsmanship and materials, as evidenced by:
- its Beaux-Arts design, as exhibited by the arrangement of details, the balance of the design and the reflection on the exterior of the interior design;
- the classical conception of the Sparks Street façade exhibiting Beaux-Arts principles, including its high rusticated base and a piano nobile in smooth ashlar, the symmetrical arrangement and type of openings such as the centre door, the four windows, and recessed niches, and the four-freestanding columns and a capping cornice;
- its Doric order and ornamentatal scheme, respecting archaeological precedent;
- the relative opacity of the main façade fundamental to the original architectural intent, and expressive of its original use as a bank;
- the general volumes of its interior, including the generous banking hall, and the mezzanine offices overlooking the central space;
- the combination of traditional classical detailing with references to traditional Canadian economic activities, including the banking hall decoration with scenes of Canadian life on the marble walls;
- the surviving Greek inspiration ornamentation, fittings and furniture;
-the interior materials, including the marble-walled vestibule, the rose grey Tennessee marble floors of the banking hall and the pink marble dados with cast stone walls above.
The manner in which the Bank of Nova reinforces the economic character of its setting and preserves its historical relationship with the unchanged streetscape, as evidenced by:
- its prominent location on both Sparks Street in one of the most accessible areas of the Ottawa downtown core;
- its design, function and location, which makes it a familiar landmark in downtown Ottawa for residents of the city and tourists.