Aug 10

Dining in Historic Banks

by Kristy · 0 comments

Early twentieth-century bank architecture in Calgary provided the downtown landscape with imposing façades and ornate, exterior decoration. Fluted columns, elaborate cornices, and Ionic capitals grace these examples of Beaux-Arts architecture. The importance of the banking industry at the time was expressed through architecture and their imposing structures were meant to convey security and value. Now, these buildings house another important activity – dining! The beauty and elegance of downtown Calgary’s historic banks allow for an incredible dining experience.

The historic Dominion Bank Building at 200 – 8 Avenue SE is now the home of Teatro Restaurant, a fixture on the Calgary dining scene for twenty-five years. The restaurant, aptly named for the theatre, sits across from the Arts Commons, and is the perfect place to take in a meal before watching a production or embarking on an after-dinner stroll through Olympic Plaza. The wine cellar, boasting more than 10,000 bottles, is housed in the original bank vault.

Dominion Bank Building 1912 (Retrieved from the Glenbow Museum Archives)

 

The Dominion Bank Building was completed in 1911. Formed in 1869, the Dominion Bank expanded into Alberta in 1906, with the Stephen Avenue location being the provincial headquarters until the merger with the Bank of Toronto in 1951. Architect George W. Northwood designed the building, and it is the only bank building in the province to have a terra cotta façade. This gives the building a marble-like appearance. A small addition has been added to the top of the building, but great care has been taken to preserve the historic value.

In 1912 the Molson’s Bank Building, located at 114 8 Ave SW, was completed. Founded by the sons of brewing magnate John Molson, the bank eventually merged with the Bank of Montreal in 1925. It was then sold to the Bank of Toronto, serving as the headquarters for the province. The building remained a bank until 1993. The TD logo still exists on the front of the building and the sign still says Molson’s Bank, but the James Joyce Pub is now the occupant. Despite the name of the building, as an authentic Irish pub, you can’t order a Molson from the bar!

The Bank of Nova Scotia (Unknown Source)

 

A bit later, in 1930, the Bank of Nova Scotia was completed at 125 8 Ave SW. Canadian architect John M. Lyle, one of Canada’s most famed Beaux-Arts architects, included on the façade a series of sculpted reliefs depicting life in western Canada with agricultural and ranching themes. A glass skylight graces the interior and the window bays boast elaborate carvings. The Bank of Nova Scotia building is now the Bank and Baron Pub. The original bank vaults are used for private dining and events, and a stunning central bar is situated under the skylight. Part of the restaurant’s name is obvious – but who is the Baron? George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen, was one of the greatest philanthropists of his time, the financial architect behind CP Railway, and President of the Bank of Montreal – hence, Bank and Baron.

This fall, another restaurant is due to open on Stephen Avenue in a historic bank! Formerly Catch & The Oyster Bar, the Imperial Bank Building at 100 8 Ave SE, will be home to a second location of Kensington’s Modern Steak. Press releases indicate their plans to re-expose the original sandstone walls inside and to enhance the historical integrity of the building.

Many downtown restaurants exist in iconic heritage buildings – stay tuned!


This blog is part of a series created to compliment our Downtown Through the Decades program on the Downtown Summer Stage. Each weekly performance runs from 1pm – 4pm on Saturdays on Stephen Avenue, and highlights a popular musical genre from a specific decade in Calgary’s history.

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