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Union Bank Building

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, A1C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1989/07/21

Exterior photo of front facade, 287 Duckworth Street, St. John's. Taken February 2005.; HFNL 2005
287 Duckworth Street, St. John's, NL.
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1861/01/01 to 1862/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/02/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Union Bank is a three storey Classical Revival building located at 287 Duckworth Street, St. John's, NL. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Union Bank at 261 Duckworth Street has been designated for its aesthetic and historical values.

The Union Bank is aesthetically valuable because it is a fine example of the Classical Revival style in an institutional building. This building was constructed in 1861 with brick and stone. It features several elements of the Classical Revival architectural style, including arched windows and pilasters. The arcade on the front façade is repeated on all three floors, gradually getting smaller on each floor. The main level façade is constructed of cut ashlar stone, while the second and third floors are faced with brick. On these upper floors is quoining, also in cut ashlar sandstone. The main level features twin main entrances that have heavy carved pilasters and entablatures. Each window on this level also has a keystone feature and projecting arch with pilasters. The second floor has sandstone arches with carved details in place of transom windows. The second and third floors are delineated by a sandstone stringcourse and the arched details are further expressed in the third floor windows. At the eaves are dentils and eaves brackets.

The Union Bank is historically valuable because it is associated with the merchant’s efforts to form an alternative banking system after growing dissatisfaction with other Newfoundland banks of the time. By May 1854 the Union Bank opened its doors for business with the mercantile organization as its provisional board of directors. However, after about a decade of poor fish trade and dangerous banking practices the Union Bank and the other Commercial Bank had to close their doors. The effects of these bank closures were felt immediately which caused considerable hardship and strife in Newfoundland. The closures also precipitated a crisis which brought the Colony to the brink of bankruptcy and resulted in opening Canada-Newfoundland Confederation talks. More importantly the "Bank Crash" as it became known, revealed the weakness of the Island's economy and the truck credit system on which it depended. The Union Bank, founded with the support of Government and the merchant class became, during its forty-year history, the chief commercial banking institution in St. John's and was in large part responsible for the closing of the Bank of British North America in 1857.

The Union Bank Building is also historically important because it was the only building to survive in the path of the Great Fire of 1892 because of the protection provided by the installation of steel shutters to the windows. This is significant because the Great Fire of 1892 in St. John’s is remembered as the worst disaster to ever befall the city. Many noteworthy buildings were lost in the fire in that area.

Source: City of St. John's Archives, 3rd Floor Railway Coastal Museum, 495 Water Street, P.O. Box 908, St. John's, NL A1C 5M2

Character-Defining Elements

All those original exterior elements that embody the Classical Revival style, including:
-carved, decorative pilasters;
-all arches;
-general massing;
-size, shape and placement of all windows and doors;
-double entrances;
-use of brick and stone; and
-location on Duckworth Street.



Newfoundland and Labrador

Recognition Authority

City of St. John's

Recognition Statute

City of St. John's Act

Recognition Type

City of St. John's Heritage Building, Structure, Land or Area

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of St. John's Archives, 3rd Floor Railway Coastal Museum, 495 Water Street, P.O. Box 908, St. John's, NL A1C 5M2

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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