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Birkbeck Building National Historic Site of Canada

8-10 Adelaide Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M5C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1986/06/16

General view of Birkbeck Building showing the classical details including arched openings, pediments, elaborate window surrounds and keystones, 1993.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, B Morin, 1993.
General view
General view of Birkbeck Building showing the symmetrical composition.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view
General view of Birkbeck Building showing the sculptural surface treatment with channelled masonry.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada.
General view

Other Name(s)

Birkbeck Building National Historic Site of Canada
Birkbeck Building
Édifice Birkbeck

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1908/01/01 to 1910/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/06/11

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.

Heritage Value

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.

Character-Defining Elements

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.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1986/06/16

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Historic

Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building
Government
Office or office building

Architect / Designer

George W. Gouinlock

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

532

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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