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Bank of Commerce

3117 30th Avenue, Vernon, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2000/02/21

Bank of Commerce; City of Vernon, 2010
Front elevation, 2009
Bank of Commerce; Greater Vernon Museum & Archives photo #2434
Front elevation, 1922
No Image

Other Name(s)

Bank of Commerce
Vernon Bank of Commerce
Baron Insurance
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1913/01/01 to 1914/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/05/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Bank of Commerce is a two-storey Beaux Arts commercial building located on the north side of 30th Avenue in Vernon. The concrete block building features a symmetrical front façade faced with brick and four terra cotta pilasters rising to the top of the second storey. The building also has a central pedimented porch and a centrally located pediment above an attenuated cornice line.

Heritage Value

Built in 1913-14, the Bank of Commerce is notable for its impressive and well-detailed Beaux Arts design. The monumental massing of the building is well suited to its central block position, giving it a significant presence on the street. The use of two-storey pilasters, high cornice, and extensive overhanging roofs emphasizes the grandeur of the building and creates the illusion of size.

The design is typical of the Bank of Commerce, which had a policy of using classical forms. The official history of the company, published in 1922, states that: 'The buildings erected by the bank are not the product of passing fashion. While modern in spirit and diverse in every legitimate respect, they are founded both in general design and in detail on those classical traditions which never fail to command respect.....it is evident that the banks of Canada have taken the lead in establishing the classical traditions of architecture in the newly settled districts of this country and in this the Bank of Commerce has done its full share.'

The Vernon News, October 2, 1913, reported that 'the exterior....will have an appearance....characteristic of Banks of Commerce the Dominion over. Deep red brick will be used, ornamented with four massive columns of rough surfaced terra cotta.'

The Vernon bank is an exact copy of the design for the Bank of Commerce in Red Deer, Alberta, built in 1911-12 and designed by Victor Daniel Horsburgh (1866-1947), and is similar to the Nelson Bank of Commerce (1907). Horsburgh was born in Edinburgh. He studied as an architect at Edinburgh University and was admitted to the ARIBA in 1896. He was known as a brilliant draftsman. In 1910, he moved to Toronto where he was appointed architect to the Dominion Realty Company Ltd., a subsidiary of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. There he designed innumerable branch offices for the Bank. He retired to Victoria in 1933.

Notable Beaux Arts features of the Vernon branch include the monumental Corinthian pilasters with moulded terra cotta acanthus leaves and flowers, the large modillions under the extended overhang of the roof, the pedimented central roof containing a terra cotta medallion, and the central pedimented porch. The broken pediment over the entrance contains a caduceus, the original insignia of the Bank of Commerce, representing power and wisdom. The symmetrical rows of windows in the upper and lower storeys, each with a decorative keystone, add to the classical formality of the design. The interior included two vaults and staff accommodation upstairs. The Vernon brickyards provided the pressed brick for the side walls.

The bank is also valued as a symbol of the prosperity which Vernon had achieved by 1914. The population had tripled to 3,000 in the previous decade and the city was firmly established as the business and transportation centre of the Okanagan Valley. Land speculation and promotion led to a significant influx of new population. A large granite courthouse built in 1914, as well as a stone post office built two years earlier, emphasized the presence of the Provincial and Federal governments in Vernon. A Bank of Commerce opened in rented premises in 1911. The Bank's annual report for that year paid specific attention to the growth of agriculture in the Vernon area: 'The promise of fruit farming is very attractive and those who are wise enough to develop mixed farming should find a ready market for many years to come.'

Following closely on the construction of the Bank of Montreal in 1910 and the Winnipeg Union Bank in 1911, the Bank of Commerce's new building, initiated in 1913 and completed the next year, marked the height of Vernon's economic growth, just before World War I. The Bank was in the building until 1979, expanding the rear of the building in 1950. The building was sold to Baron Insurance, which occupied the building for almost twenty-five years. It is currently a restaurant.

Source: City of Vernon Planning Department

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Bank of Commerce include its:
- mid-block location on the north side of 30th Avenue
- monumental form of the building, with its two-storey height, symmetrical massing with central pediment over a central pedimented entry
- Beaux Arts features, such as the monumental fluted terra cotta pilasters with finely detailed Corinthian floral decoration, medallion in the tympanum, brick corner quoins, the symmetrical arrangement of the windows with decorative keystones, and broad overhanging eaves with large modillions
- use of pressed brick on the front façade
- original bank night deposit box visible on exterior
- interior features, including the original vault



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Eating or Drinking Establishment


Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange
Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building

Architect / Designer

Victor Daniel Horsburgh


William Cryderman

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vernon Planning Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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