Description of Historic Place
The building at 205 Yonge Street, commonly known as the Bank of Toronto, is located on a narrow mid-block site in downtown Toronto. The four-storey building was constructed in 1905 to the designs of renowned architect E.J. Lennox.
The exterior of the building and the interior of the main banking hall are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1975). The property is also designated by the City of Toronto under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 505-75).
The Bank of Toronto is a notable work of E.J. Lennox, the prominent Toronto architect responsible for the design of a number of landmarks such as Toronto's Old City Hall and Casa Loma and for a large body of commissions undertaken for Toronto's most wealthy and influential patrons during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The grandeur and opulence of the building is also associated with the competition between Canadian financial institutions in the early 20th century. The bank is a rare architectural expression of the historically important corporation known as the Bank of Toronto (founded in 1855), which later merged with the Dominion Bank to become the Toronto Dominion Bank in 1955.
The Bank of Toronto is architecturally significant as one of Toronto's most outstanding examples of a monumental neo-classical structure. The success of Lennox's Beaux Arts influenced design is that this very small building appears quite large and imposing. The bank exhibits excellence in craftsmanship on the exterior and interior. The exterior is appointed with handcrafted decorative masonry of a very high quality, while on the interior the banking hall has a number of impressive architectural details also rendered in rich materials. The banking hall possesses a remarkable quality of light, which is the result of the large frosted windows on the south elevation and the stained glass skylights above.
This bank building contributes to what is known as the theatre block. In addition to the theatres, recital halls, movie houses and restaurants that dominated the area, two other classically-inspired banks were built alongside the Bank of Toronto: the Canadian Bank of Commerce (197 Yonge Street) and the Bank of Montreal (173 Yonge Street). Today, the Bank of Toronto building stands as a distinctive and prominent visual landmark within one of Canada's most popular retail environments. All eight of the buildings that share the block on which the bank is located are recognized for their heritage values.
Source: Conservation Easement Files, Ontario Heritage Trust
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Bank of Toronto include its:
- location within Toronto's theatre block
- distinction and prominence as a visual landmark on Yonge Street
- close proximity to other significant classically-inspired banking buildings
- monumental scale and proportions in Beaux Arts influenced design as created by the prominent Toronto architect E.J. Lennox
- classically-inspired main (west) facade with three-storey Indiana limestone Corinthian columns, a deep pedimented portico, and sculptural detailing of the capitals, architrave, pediment and cornices
- classically inspired and intricately carved festoon-surrounded oculi above the pediment and the gargoyles and mascarons of the upper levels of the main (west) facade
- prominent aluminum-clad hemispherical dome that crowns the edifice and helps to exaggerate the building's height
- raised plinth of the west elevation, the large narrow portico and the varied massing used to exaggerate scale and monumentality
- yellow brick composition of the south elevation and associated round-headed metal windows, Indiana limestone sills, cornices and stringcourses
- glazed elevator shaft which provides views of the cab in motion from the exterior of the building (an example of the design's innovation and opulence)
- classically-inspired interior elements of the entrance hall such as the mosaic floor, marble staircase, and high ceiling (currently obscured)
- classically-inspired elements of the banking hall such as the two-storey height, mosaic floor, terrazzo floor, marble walls, square Corinthian columns and pilasters, stained glass skylights, plaster cornices, iron grills, decorative plaster ornamentation, Diocletian (or thermal) windows and blind windows
- large steel bank vault at the rear of the banking hall
- elevator shaft directly behind the main facade (an indicator of the ostentation and design importance given to this modern feature in what is a relatively low building)