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Bank of Commerce

501 Main Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of the Bank of Commerce; City of Vancouver, 2004
Front facade
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Other Name(s)

Bank of Commerce
Canadian Bank of Commerce, Main Street Branch

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1914/01/01 to 1915/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/03/29

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Bank of Commerce building consists of a three-storey stone bank and office building at 501 Main Street, located on the southwest corner of Main and East Pender Streets, within Vancouver's historic Chinatown.

Heritage Value

The Bank of Commerce building has heritage value as a grandiose expression of the 'temple bank', for its imposing presence on Main Street, and for accommodating a succession of commercial and institutional tenants that reflect the social and economic diversity of Chinatown.

The building's architectural value is found in its being one of Vancouver's most extravagantly-scaled examples of the temple bank. Built in 1914-15, it reflects the monumental Edwardian Baroque Style. The design magnifies the more modestly-scaled banks in this mode that began to be built at the beginning of the twentieth century, and which used the classical metaphor to express the stability of financial institutions. It was the work of Victor Daniel Horsburgh, the Toronto-based architect for the Canadian Bank of Commerce. W.F. Gardiner was the local supervising architect, and prominent contractors Baynes and Horie were the builders. The design also reflects the Bank of Commerce's aggressive expansion into Western Canada during the first two decades of the century.

This is the dominant structure on this portion of Main Street, challenging the authority of the domed Carnegie Centre (401 Main Street), built a decade earlier, and reflecting the competition between commercial and public institutional interests.

The building also has heritage value for the diversity of its occupants. The Canadian Bank of Commerce (since 1961 the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) continues to use the ground-floor banking hall after nearly a century. The two upper floors have accommodated a variety of non-Chinese and Chinese businesses and institutions, reflecting the location where Chinatown's Pender Street is intersected by the more broadly representative Main Street. Institutional occupants have included the Italian Consulate and the Victorian Order of Nurses (in the 1920s), and the Hoi Ming Gwok Society of Canada (in the 1960s).

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Bank of Commerce building include:
- The exterior stonework, with its rusticated treatment
- The cornice, with its triglyphs and other Greco-Roman ornament
- The pediment, with its central ornamental panel
- The parapet
- The inscriptions "The Canadian Bank of Commerce" in the frieze on both elevations
- The pairs of large columns at either corner of the façade
- The classical detailing around the Main Street entrance, including the columns
- The pilaster treatment along the Pender Street elevation
- The detailing around the Pender Street entrance
- The stone surrounds of the windows
- The clock and its curved hood moulding on the Pender Street elevation



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.593

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type



Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange
Diplomatic Building

Architect / Designer

W.F. Gardiner


Baynes and Horie

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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