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Bank of Nova Scotia

125 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1986/05/22

General view of the Bank of Nova Scotia, showing its four freestanding columns and its capping cornice, 1985.; Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1985.
General view
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Other Name(s)

Bank of Nova Scotia
Bank of Nova Scotia
Édifice de la Banque de Nouvelle-Écosse

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1924/01/01 to 1925/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/04/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Bank of Nova Scotia, located in downtown Ottawa, is a rigorously Classical stone building designed in the Beaux-Arts style. Its proportions and overall simplicity is derived from a severe Doric order, while its fine stone craftsmanship and decorative details on the exterior and a generous banking hall on the interior contribute to its distinctly classical character. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Bank of Nova Scotia is a Classified federal heritage building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value
The Bank of Nova Scotia is a very good example of the early 20th-century economic development and diversification of Ottawa, marking the dominance of Sparks Street in retail trade and office-sector financial activities. Chartered in 1832, the Bank of Nova Scotia was first contained within the 1874 building erected for the Bank of Ottawa on Wellington Street. In 1924, following the trend of movement away from this area, the bank was moved to Sparks Street.

Architectural Value
The Bank of Nova Scotia is one of the best examples of John Lyle’s works, and is the most rigorously classical of his buildings. The clarity of the arrangement of details, the balance of the design and the reflection on the exterior, of the interior design, all embody the best of Beaux-Arts planning and exemplify its excellent esthetic design. Its Doric order respects archaeological precedent, while the detailing combines references to Canadian economic activities. The stonework treatments of the construction and the detailing demonstrate the excellent craftsmanship. The building’s composition is remarkable in its lucid proportions and achieves an overall simplicity, demonstrating a very good functional design.

Environmental Value
By reinforcing the economic and historic character of its surroundings, the Bank of Nova Scotia has maintained an unchanged historical association with the streetscape, which make it a familiar landmark in downtown Ottawa.

Sources: Dana Johnson, Bank of Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 85-008; Bank of Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 85-008.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Bank of Nova Scotia should be respected.

Its excellent aesthetic design, very good functional design and excellent craftsmanship and materials, as evidenced by:
- its Beaux-Arts design, as exhibited by the arrangement of details, the balance of the design and the reflection on the exterior of the interior design;
- the classical conception of the Sparks Street façade exhibiting Beaux-Arts principles, including its high rusticated base and a piano nobile in smooth ashlar, the symmetrical arrangement and type of openings such as the centre door, the four windows, and recessed niches, and the four-freestanding columns and a capping cornice;
- its Doric order and ornamentatal scheme, respecting archaeological precedent;
- the relative opacity of the main façade fundamental to the original architectural intent, and expressive of its original use as a bank;
- the general volumes of its interior, including the generous banking hall, and the mezzanine offices overlooking the central space;
- the combination of traditional classical detailing with references to traditional Canadian economic activities, including the banking hall decoration with scenes of Canadian life on the marble walls;
- the surviving Greek inspiration ornamentation, fittings and furniture;
-the interior materials, including the marble-walled vestibule, the rose grey Tennessee marble floors of the banking hall and the pink marble dados with cast stone walls above.

The manner in which the Bank of Nova reinforces the economic character of its setting and preserves its historical relationship with the unchanged streetscape, as evidenced by:
- its prominent location on both Sparks Street in one of the most accessible areas of the Ottawa downtown core;
- its design, function and location, which makes it a familiar landmark in downtown Ottawa for residents of the city and tourists.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Treasury Board Heritage Buildings Policy

Recognition Type

Classified Federal Heritage Building

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange


Architect / Designer

John M. Lyle



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




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