Birkbeck Building National Historic Site of Canada
Links and documents
1908/01/01 to 1910/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Birkbeck Building is a four-storey office building located in downtown Toronto, Ontario. Distinguished by its classically inspired architecture, grand design, rich building materials and eclectic sculptural decoration, this building was intended to create an air of ordered permanence and prosperity. Its steel frame and fireproof finishing materials placed it in the vanguard of building technology in its time. The official recognition refers to the building on its legal lot.
The Birkbeck Building was designated a national historic site of Canada because it is a good representative example of a transitional building which combined historical style with modern technology.
With its rich Edwardian Baroque details, classical composition, steel frame and fireproofed surfaces, the Birkbeck Building represents a transitional period of urban commercial design which combined historical style with modern technology. Built in 1908 for The Canadian Birkbeck Investment and Savings Company, this four-storey office building is typical of many small financial instutions prevalent in central business districts of Canadian cities before World War I. Designed by George W. Gouinlock, the Birkbeck Building was restored by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1987 for use as its offices.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1986 and November 1991.
Those features that contribute to the heritage value of this building include:
elements that speak to the historical style of the building, including:
- the symmetrical composition,
- the regularly spaced openings,
- the sculptural surface treatment with channelled masonry,
- the classical details including arched openings, pediments, bull’s eye windows, elaborate window surrounds and keystones, cornices and stringcourses, and,
- the interior decoration of public spaces with their vocabulary of classical details.
elements that bear witness to the modern technological features of the building, including:
- the steel frame and,
- the fireproof materials.
Government of Canada
Historic Sites and Monuments Act
National Historic Site of Canada
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
- Office or office building
Architect / Designer
George W. Gouinlock
Location of Supporting Documentation
National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec
Cross-Reference to Collection