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Canadian Bank of Commerce

544 Columbia Street, New Westminster, British Columbia, V3L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2004/04/05

Exterior view of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, nd; New Westminster Museum and Archives, IHP 1083
Front elevation
Exterior view of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, 2004; City of New Westminster, 2004
Front elevation
No Image

Other Name(s)

Canadian Bank of Commerce
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1910/01/01 to 1911/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/08/29

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Canadian Bank of Commerce is a Classical Revival three-storey red brick and terra cotta building, with Doric columns and substantial entablature. It is located on the south side of Columbia Street, the main commercial street in New Westminster's historic downtown core.

Heritage Value

Built in 1910-11, the Canadian Bank of Commerce is valued for its high quality architecture. Its architects, Darling and Pearson of Toronto, were best known for their design of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. At the time of construction, they headed the bank's design division and had previously designed its British Columbia headquarters on Hastings Street in Vancouver. This classically-inspired Beaux-Arts design conveyed a sense of conservatism, permanence and security - particularly desirable characteristics for a financial institution. The use of high quality materials both on the exterior and the interior is also significant. The front facade of the Canadian Bank of Commerce is clad in pressed brick and terra cotta, distinguishing this building from others in the area. Similarly, the interior of the banking hall is notable for its marble floor and elaborate plaster ceiling.

Additionally, this building is significant for its association between 1911 and 2004 with the Canadian Bank of Commerce (CBC), and later with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The CBC was founded in 1867 and by 1929 had expanded its presence from coast to coast with over 700 locations. It first appeared in New Westminster in 1901 when it amalgamated with the Bank of British Columbia and inherited that bank's old location at Columbia and Sixth Streets. During the First World War, the CBC took a prominent and active role in the organization of Victory Loans - a war financing measure that saw ordinary Canadians investing their savings for the first time. Additionally, in response to the economic downturn of the 1930s, the Commerce was the first Canadian bank to establish a personal loans department. In 1961, the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada, to form the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which remains a leading international financial institution.

Furthermore, the heritage value of the Canadian Bank of Commerce is associated with the Edwardian-era development of downtown New Westminster, marking a formative period in B.C.'s resource-based economy. It is significant for its contribution to the consistent and distinctive built form of Columbia Street, which dates from 1898 to 1913, when New Westminster was the major centre of commerce and industry for the booming Fraser Valley area.

Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Canadian Bank of Commerce include its:
- location on Columbia Street, part of a grouping of commercial buildings in historic downtown New Westminster
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- commercial form, scale and massing as expressed by its three-storey plus lower level height, flat roof and cubic massing
- masonry construction, with concrete frame interior, granite foundation, and pressed red brick cladding and terra cotta on the front facade
- Classical Revival features such as fluted Doric columns on the front facade with engaged pilasters on protruding end bays, keystones and prominent entablature
- central main entrance, and secondary entry to the east, with 'Chambers' sign above
- third storey protruding above cornice line with regular fenestration and protruding end bays, with quoining
- regular fenestration on the front facade, including: ground floor wooden-sash casement windows with transoms; second storey 8-over-1 and 6-over-1 double-hung wooden-sash windows
- interior features in the original banking hall, including an ornate cast plaster ceiling concealed under a later hanging ceiling, marble floors under later floor coverings, and original baseboards
- other interior features such as massive bank vaults and the wooden staircase that connects the upper floors



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

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer

Darling and Pearson


W.H. Cawston

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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