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Ellis Block, Columbia Street

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

Formally Recognized: 2004/04/05

Exterior view of the Ellis Block, Columbia Street; City of New Westminster, 2004
Oblique view
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Other Name(s)

Ellis Block, Columbia Street
Bank of B.C.
Ellis Block

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/08/29

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Ellis Block, Columbia Street is an unornamented brick building with a chamfered corner, on New Westminster's main commercial street in the historic downtown core. It is located on a steep slope at the corner of Columbia and Sixth streets, creating two-storeys on the front facade and three-storeys on the rear facade.

Heritage Value

The Ellis Block, Columbia Street is significant for its contribution to the consistent and distinctive built form of Columbia Street, which dates from between 1898 and 1913, when New Westminster was the major centre of commerce and industrial output for the booming Fraser Valley area. The first structure of importance on this site was the Bank of British Columbia Building, 1887. Destroyed by the Great Fire, the foundations of this block were used for a replacement building built in 1899; an adjacent commercial block on Front Street - also called the Ellis Block - was constructed at the same time. The two Ellis Blocks were constructed for property owners Thomas D. Ellis and L.D. Ellis.

Additionally, the site is valued for its associations with the Bank of B.C., which played an important role in the early development of the province. The Bank of B.C. was established in New Westminster in 1862, and in 1901, amalgamated with the Canadian Bank of Commerce, which was located here until their new building next door was completed in 1911.

The Ellis Block is also valued as one of the structures in New Westminster designed by architects Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935) and John Gerhard Tiarks (1867-1901). Although never formally in partnership, they worked in association after New Westminster's Great Fire of 1898, and were commissioned to design four sophisticated structures along Columbia Street, including the two Ellis Blocks, the Hamley Block and the demolished Bank of Montreal building.

Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of New Westminster

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Ellis Block, Columbia Street, include its:
- steeply sloping corner location on Columbia Street at Sixth Street, part of a grouping of late Victorian and Edwardian era commercial buildings in historic downtown New Westminster
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- form, scale and massing as expressed by its two-storey plus lower level height, flat roof and regular plan
- relationship to the second Ellis Block at 553 Front Street
- exterior elements such as: its central entry to second floor; chamfered corner window on second floor; decorative 'keystone' in horizontal brick lintels; and pressed brick cladding
- fenestration, such as its double-hung wooden-sash windows on second floor; multi-pane stained glass window above entry to second floor; paired wooden-sash windows onto Columbia Street; and large ground floor retail windows onto Columbia Street
- heavy timber-frame internal structure



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

Francis M. Rattenbury


J. Coughlin and Company

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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