Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce stands on the north side of Sparks Street in the core of the Ottawa business district. It features a classical Beaux-Arts façade comprising a rusticated base, a row of monumental columns, entableture and capping parapet, all executed in fine stone. Behind the columns is a four-storey combined banking hall and office building. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada is associated with the commercial development of Sparks Street in the early 20th century. This area has been, since the 1880s, the core of Ottawa’s central business district. The Canadian Bank of Commerce, as it was then known, has been in Ottawa since 1874. It emerged as the pre-eminent financial organization in the city’s commercial development, with a special interest in the development of the timber and lumber trade. The present structure has been the bank’s main branch in Ottawa since its opening in 1922.
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is valued for the very good aesthetics of its Beaux-Arts design. A grand classical style much favoured by the banking community in the early 20th century. Very good functional design is evidenced in the banking hall that rises to the full height of the building, and illuminated by a large skylight. Excellent craftsmanship and materials are evidenced in the exterior materials and finishes, and in the interior in the marble floors etc. The main offices are lined and furnished in mahogany and oak.
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, reinforces the character of its commercial streetscape setting in Ottawa’s central business district and commercial core and is familiar landmark to local residents, people working in the vicinity and pedestrians.
Dana Johnson, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 119-23 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 85-025; Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 119 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Character Statement 85-025.
The character-defining elements of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce should be respected.
Its very good Beaux-Arts design elements, very good functional design, and excellent quality materials and craftsmanship;
-the four-storey scale and rectangular massing;
-the restrained, symmetrical front elevation with monumental columns forming a colonnaded Corinthian portico that extends across the façade with a rusticated base, an entablature and capping parapet;
-the quality construction faced with smooth Indiana limestone;
-the interior with its finely crafted banking hall lit by a skylight, the stone dado with plaster above, the groined ceiling picked out in gold leaf, with plaster medallions in the form of historical coinage;
-the Tennessee marble floors, and the tellers’ cages and public desks of Belgian marble and bronze;
-the office area with the board and banking room lined and furnished in mahogany, with other rooms finished in oak.
The manner in which the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce maintains an unchanged relationship to its site, reinforces the character of the commercial streetscape in the centre of downtown Ottawa and is a familiar landmark as evidenced by:
-its prominent site in the core of Ottawa’s early business district;
-its scale, design and materials that maintain a visual and physical relationship with the surrounding buildings and complement the Sparks Street streetscape;
-its location, sophisticated design and use by several corporations, which make it a familiar landmark to visitors, passing pedestrians, and local residents.