North West Trust Company Building
Links and documents
1911/01/01 to 1912/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The eight-storey Lumbermen's Building, originally known as the North West Trust Co. Building, is a reinforced-concrete commercial structure with terra cotta ornament, built in 1911-12 and located on Richards Street south of West Pender Street in downtown Vancouver.
The Lumbermen's Building has heritage value for its fine Edwardian Commercial architecture and for being representative of the numerous commercial buildings erected by financial companies in downtown Vancouver during the years immediately before the First World War.
The historic place has considerable value for its architectural design and its structure. It comprises a good example of the Edwardian Commercial Style, which was the decorated version of the Commercial Style, in which the elevation is treated in three parts - a base and a cap, both of which are finished in ornamental terra cotta; and a five-storey, relatively plain brick-faced 'shaft' between them. The decorated façade contrasts with the plain, brick treatment of the other three elevations. Inside as well, the high ground-floor banking hall was generously decorated in a classical vocabulary, whereas the upper floors were relatively plain in their treatment. The structure has value as well, being a relatively early example of a reinforced-concrete 'highrise'. The first building of this kind in Vancouver was the much more simply treated Europe Hotel, built in 1906-07. Several other tall and ornamented buildings, including this historic place, were erected during the city's building boom of 1911-13.
The building also has value for being a work by architects J. Matheson & Son and for having been built by Dominion Construction, both important firms in Vancouver's development during that period. Dominion Construction, associated with Vancouver's Bentall family, has continued in business to this day.
The building has value as well for representing the ups and downs of the local financial industry in the early twentieth century. It was in the avant-garde of the then new trend of highrise office buildings in which banks or trust companies occupied the ground floor, superseding the low-rise 'temple banks' of the previous decade. The building was put up for the North West Canada Trust Co. Ltd., one of the many trust companies that arose during the highly competitive and overheated market for mortgages and other financial services during the pre-War building boom (chartered banks were prohibited from investing in real estate). The company did not survive the subsequent depression, as the provincial government possessed the building in 1914. The Vancouver-based Lumbermen's Trust Co., which was founded in 1911 and located here around 1923, was the first in Canada to issue timber bonds, which provided working capital for sawmills. This association has value for asserting the importance of the lumber industry to British Columbia over many generations, and showing that the industry also expanded in the years around 1911.
The building has changed hands frequently since and was used for a series of ground-floor retail uses, reflecting the consolidation of the financial sector and the declining land values in this part of downtown. Alterations undertaken in 1980 concealed much of the ornament in the former ground-floor banking hall, but left it essentially intact. That same initiative changed the layout of most of the upper-floor offices.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the Lumbermens' Building include:
- The simple, point-tower massing built flush to the sidewalk and lane
- The clear articulation of the Richards Street elevation, treated as an ornamented base and cap, with a simpler 'shaft' treatment in the middle five storeys
- The classical terra cotta ornament on the ground floor, including the Doric columns and pilasters supporting a frieze and cornice; the column bases, the arched surrounds on the outer bays; the recessed panels between the mezzanine windows, and the narrow frieze above the mezzanine floor
- The terra cotta ornament of the top floor, including the segmental-headed windows, decorative frieze, strong cornice, and dentils and brackets below the window sills
- The uninterrupted brick piers and recessed spandrels of the intermediate floors
- The terra cotta capping to the parapet on the south elevation
- The metal two-over-two vertical sash windows with Georgian wired glass on the east elevation of the light well
- The metal three-over-three vertical sash windows with Georgian wired glass on the north-facing windows of the light well
- The terra cotta window sills on all the elevations
- The plain brick walls on the side and rear elevations
- The buff facing brick on the north elevation of the light well
- The classical ornament of the former banking hall on the ground floor and mezzanine, particularly at ceiling height, including the ornament that is concealed behind modern dropped ceilings
- The patterned mosaic tiles, including on the ground floor and adjacent to the elevator on all floors
- The staircase that surrounds the elevator shaft
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.582
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
J. Matheson & Son
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection