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Bank of British Columbia

422 Richards Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1986/09/23

Exterior view of the Bank of British Columbia; City of Vancouver, 2005
Oblique view
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Other Name(s)

Bank of British Columbia
Rush Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1889/01/01 to 1891/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/08/17

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Bank of British Columbia is an ornate, three-storey Victorian Italianate masonry commercial building. The building has a narrow frontage on West Hastings Street, a one-storey addition to the east and a chamfered corner. Located on a north sloping lot at the southeast corner of Richards and West Hastings Streets, it is a significant landmark within the context of other commercial buildings of a compatible age and scale in downtown Vancouver.

Heritage Value

Built in 1889-1891, the Bank of British Columbia Building is valued as an ornate and sophisticated example of the Victorian Italianate style, which was used to convey an image of prosperity and permanence for commercial buildings during the late Victorian era. This is a particularly elegant example of the style, exhibiting a varied articulation of window cases, sill and plat courses, and rusticated ground floor pilasters. The bank was considered to be burglar-proof due to its elaborate vaults, and featured fine interior appointments, such as a Minton tile floor and glass dividing walls between the banking hall offices.

The Bank of British Columbia is a significant surviving commission by architect Thomas Charles Sorby (1836-1924), and is notable for its builder, George C. Mesher (1860-1938). Sorby was an English-trained architect who found work in Canada with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), for whom he designed a number of innovative stations. Mesher worked with Sorby in Victoria, and developed a reputation as one of the premier contractors in Victoria. His involvement in this significant project speaks to the generally more sophisticated conditions in the capital city at the time.

Furthermore, the building is evidence of the earliest economic development in the province. It was commissioned for the Bank of British Columbia, founded in 1862, just four years after the Crown Colony of British Columbia had come into existence. The discovery of gold in the colony had attracted the attention of a group of British investors, who established the bank in London. The bank became a major lender to the financially struggling colonial government. However, by the end of the century it was unable to meet increased competition, and in 1901 it merged with the Canadian Bank of Commerce. This building subsequently housed a number of branch banks, including the Bank of Toronto that was located in the one-storey addition to the east.

The building's prominent location contributed to the establishment of the Victory Square area as a district of important commercial activity, and as the city's primary financial and corporate district. The Bank of British Columbia was one of the first commercial buildings to be built outside of Gastown, the initial commercial area of Vancouver. The building housed the most modern banking facility of its day, and offices on its second storey for rental to professionals such as barristers.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Bank of British Columbia include its:
- prominent location at the southeast corner of Richards and West Hastings Streets, on a north-sloping lot; built to the property lines
- contribution to the streetscape as part of an unbroken streetwall with continuous retail storefronts
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its three-storey height and regular, rectangular plan
- flat roof with raised parapets
- masonry construction with: smooth finished sandstone ashlar masonry cladding on the first storey facades; high-quality brick facing on the upper storeys on the two main facades; common bricks, in American common bond, on the rear and side facades; intricate carved sandstone detailing; rusticated ground floor pilasters; and granite entry steps and foundation blocks
- heavy timber-frame internal structure and wooden ceiling assemblies
- exterior detailing, such as the expressed casing around the round arched windows, capped with scrolled keystones and terminating in carved imposts; second-storey sandstone window surrounds comprised of entablatures with straight, triangular and broken pedimented cornices supported by engaged pilasters; third storey decoration, such as continuous sill course, sandstone casings, and pedimented window heads connected by a string course; and dentil moulding string course between first and second storeys
- regular and nearly symmetrical fenestration on the street facade and irregular fenestration on the rear: rounded arch windows of three parts above the transom bar and plate glass glazing below on the first storey; segmental arched windows and doorway on first storey of the southwest portion of Richards Street facade; rounded arched windows in pairs and groups of three comprised of fixed, rounded upper frame on the third storey; double-hung, two-over-one wooden-sashes on the second storey; segmental arched windows with two-over-one,double-hung sashes on the third storey
- sidewalk elevator, indicating the existence of an areaway beneath the sidewalk
- surviving interior features from the time of original construction, such as the door and window trim on the second and third floors, upper floor central hallways, and third floor panelled and glazed doors



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.582

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
Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer

Thomas Charles Sorby


George C. Mesher

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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