Old Imperial Bank
4190, Bridge Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2E, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Constructed in 1906, the Old Imperial Bank is a massive limestone structure with an eclectic blend of Romanesque Revival and French Renaissance architecture. This grand three-storey building occupies the southeast corner lot in Niagara Falls' historic downtown at Bridge Street and Zimmerman Avenue.
The property is recognized for its heritage value by the City of Niagara Falls By-law 78-67.
The Old Imperial Bank building is one of the few old commercial structures remaining in Niagara Falls. The bank's central location in the downtown indicates the significant role it played in the economic development of the surrounding businesses and is a remarkable symbol of the once prosperous Village of Elgin.
The Old Imperial Bank is over 100 years old and it continues to this day to dominate the downtown landscape. The Imperial Bank was first located in a building across the street from its current location, on the southwest corner of Bridge Street and Clifton (now Zimmerman) Avenue. In 1905 the Imperial Bank bought Coulson's Bake Shop on the designated property and tore it down for the new bank to be built. Designed in 1906 by the Toronto firm of Darling and Pearson, the new bank building was a branch of the Imperial Bank (later known as the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) until 1967. The bank became nationally famous in 1964 when it was the site of Niagara Falls' biggest bank robbery. Cutting into the southeast corner vault from an adjacent building, the robbers escaped with $900,000. They were captured three weeks later. Ironically, the building's stone construction was specifically designed to represent solidity, safety and security. Despite this unfortunate incident, the bank has withstood over 100 years of wear and still stands as a solid and distinguished reminder of the downtown's earlier prosperity.
The building is an eclectic blend of architectural styles contributing to a dominant yet elegant presence on the corner. It is a mixture of Romanesque Revival and French Renaissance styles as both were common in North America during this time period. The Old Imperial Bank was constructed with a quarry faced limestone exterior. The solid stone sections seem almost overly large for the building's scale, but they appear to have been deliberate to imply a building of strength and security that the Imperial Bank hoped to portray as its image. This monumental image is exhibited by details such as the carved door lintels and large cut stone window surrounds.
Sources: By-law No. 78-67, Planning and Development Department, City of Port Colborne, 1978; Old Imperial Bank Notice of Intention to Designate, Planning and Development Department, City of Port Colborne, 1978; “1964 bank heist was well planned”, Sherman Zavitz, Niagara Falls Review, November 1, 1997.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Old Imperial Bank include its:
- massive quarry-faced construction of the exterior in a mixture of Romanesque Revival and French Renaissance styles
- decorative carved door lintels
- large cut stone window surrounds to give the image of security and strength
- central downtown location in close proximity to other heritage properties
- its location in a commercial area of Niagara Falls, formerly the commercial district of the Village of Elgin
Local Governments (ON)
Ontario Heritage Act
Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)
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
Location of Supporting Documentation
Planning and Development
4310 Queen Street
Niagara Falls, ON
Cross-Reference to Collection