New Uses for Old Places – Historic Bank Buildings

In this edition of New Uses for Old Places we are going to look at two Provincial Historic Resources on Calgary’s historic Stephen Avenue that are currently undergoing rehabilitation. The Bank of Nova Scotia  and the Bank of Montreal Building are both slated to reopen with new uses this year.

In the early days of Alberta, banks were designed as statements of wealth, progress and confidence in a growing province. The buildings included lofty banker’s halls, adorned with fancy ornamentation — the ‘suits’ could look down on the tellers from the mezzanine above. The design was intended to impress investors and was conducive to the hushed conversation of financial matters.

But, what do you do with grand halls when the money managers move to a modern building? Historic banks can be difficult spaces to re-purpose due to challenges with acoustics, heating and the unconventional layout of the main floor. Nevertheless, for two former banks on Calgary’s Stephen Avenue, the commitment of the property owners and the selection of suitable tenants has resulted in the revitalisation of two very significant buildings on one of Calgary’s most active streets.

The Bank of Montreal building was constructed on Stephen Avenue in 1930-32 as a three-storey, steel-frame building clad in Tyndall limestone. The building replaced an earlier (1889) version of the building in an effort to modernize its image. The bank operated in this location until 1988. The most recent tenant, A&B Sound, left the building over a decade ago and it has since sat empty. Renovations are now under way to re-purpose the building to accommodate a restaurant/pub on the main floor, with 25,000 square feet of office space on the upper floors. The building was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2003.

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Just across the street sits, the Bank of Nova Scotia. It was constructed in 1930 as a one-storey steel frame, brick and sandstone structure and operated as a bank until 1976. Since that time the building has been home to a range of restaurants and clubs and is now being renovated to contain a public house. The renovation will involve re-plastering of the walls and restoration of the marble flooring in the entranceway. The building was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1981.

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Heritage Conservation Advisory Services has been working closely with the owners of both properties to ensure that renovation activities are following the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on CULTURAL CONNECTIONS and commented:
    In the early days of western Canada, banks were designed as statements of wealth, progress and confidence in growing provinces and a nation. However, as the banks and communities grew, so did the need for larger bank offices. What does one do with an older bank building. This article explores how two different bank buildings, one right across the street from each other on Steven Avenue Mall in Calgary, are being retrofitted to new uses today.

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