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Bank of Montreal

1, Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8P, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1987/10/30

View of the northeast corner as seen from the intersection of Main St. and James St.; OHT, 1981
View of the northeast corner – Summer 1981
Interior view of the banking hall showing floor, walls, columns, and ceiling; OHT, 2003
Interior view of the banking hall – September 2003
Historic view of the northeast corner as seen from the intersection of Main St. and James St.; hamiltonpostcards.com, 2005
Historic view of the northeast corner – c. 1930

Other Name(s)

Gowlings Building
Bank of Montreal

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/12/07

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The building at 1-5 Main Street West, commonly known as the Bank of Montreal, is situated on a prominent parcel of land at one of downtown Hamilton's busiest intersections. The two-storey building was constructed in 1928 to the designs of architect Kenneth G. Rea, an independent practitioner from Montreal.

The exterior of the building, excluding the western façade, and the interior features of the main banking hall are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. The property is also designated by the City of Hamilton under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw 79-222).

Heritage Value

The building is located at the intersection of Main and James Streets and occupies a position in the financial heart of Hamilton's downtown core. This economic hub is also home to a number of other significant financial buildings such as the Pigott Building (36-40 James Street), the Sun Life Building (42 James Street), and the Landed Banking and Loan Company Building (36-40 James), all of which are recognized heritage properties. Today, the Bank of Montreal building is reaffirming its position as a cultural landmark within Hamilton's downtown core. The building will be used to house commercial offices and contribute to the economic vitality of the city's downtown.

As the former main branch of the Bank of Montreal in Hamilton, this building is associated with the city's history as having a thriving banking and insurance district. It provides a physical link to a time when the business functions of Hamilton rivalled those of neighbouring Toronto. The building is also a testament to the tradition of heritage conservation in Hamilton. As one of the most prominent buildings to escape unscathed from the urban renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the building faced an uncertain future when it was slated for demolition in the early 1980s. Following the efforts of local politicians, heritage advocates, and a concerned citizens group, called the Bank of Montreal Action Committee, the building was spared from demolition and was re-established as an active commercial building by the mid 1980s.

Designed in the monumental and opulent Neoclassical style of the late 1920s, the Bank of Montreal building has been described as one of the finest bank premises in Canada. The building exhibits excellence in craftsmanship on both its exterior and interior, however, it is the carvings on the two street-facing facades by renowned Dutch-Canadian sculptor William Oosterhoff that most often garners attention. The interior of the building displays a monumentality of scale and richness of detail that is both awesome and stunning. Its most significant feature is the two-storey banking hall which is lit on all four sides by long shafts of vertical windows.

Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust

Character-Defining Elements

Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value include its:
- prominent location in the heart of Hamilton's financial district
- close proximity to other financial buildings recognized as heritage structures
- classically inspired composition of the main (east) facade and the north and south elevations in Queenston dolomite on a Stanstead granite base
- central motif on the main façade which incorporates four graceful Corinthian columns and a pediment featuring an intricately carved Bank of Montreal coat of arms in the tympanum
- Corinthian pilasters and large two-storey windows of the north elevation, south elevation, and the northern and southern flanks of the main façade
- iron grills over the ground floor windows and the decorative masonry of the door surround
- 35 foot (10.7m) ceiling height in the interior
- finely chiselled Tennessee marble walls
- 28 foot (8.5m) ionic columns in solid red Levanto marble
- ceiling spanned by coffered ornamental girders in polychrome
- iron railing bordering the mezzanine
- marble and iron staircase connecting the basement and main floor at the north-eastern corner of the building




Recognition Authority

Ontario Heritage Trust

Recognition Statute

Ontario Heritage Act

Recognition Type

Ontario Heritage Foundation Easement

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1987/01/01 to 1987/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer

Kenneth G. Rea


Pigott Construction

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Conservation Easement Files Ontario Heritage Trust 10 Adelaide Street East Toronto, Ontario

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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