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Bank of British North America Registered Heritage Structure

Bank of British North America, St. John's, NL
Bank of British North America, St. John's, NL
Bank of British North America, St. John's, NL

Statement of Significance

Formal Recognition Type

Registered Heritage Structure

Description of Historic Place

The Bank of British North America is a three-and-a-half storeys, Italianate stone building located at 276 Duckworth Street, St. John’s, NL. Built to house the first commercial bank in Newfoundland, this building is an impressive structure in the downtown core. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

The Bank of British North America was designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1991 because of its historic and architectural and values.

The Bank of British North America is historically significant because of its association with the early phases of Newfoundland banking. Constructed in 1848, this building housed a branch of the Bank of British North America, the first commercial bank to operate in Newfoundland. This building represented the early phase of Newfoundland banking, from 1837 to 1857, in which the continuing ties to Britain played an important, though challenging role in commercial banking enterprises in Newfoundland. The Bank of British North America was opened for business in 1837, and continued to function until 1857. Following the close of the Bank of British North America, Newfoundland banking entered its second phase, from 1857 to 1894, during which time the Commercial Bank of Newfoundland purchased and operated out of this building. It was during this phase that the building experienced extensive damage from the Great Fire, suffering severe interior damage. The exterior, however, was relatively unharmed and it soon fell under the ownership of the Newfoundland Savings Bank following the 1894 Crash which saw the closure of the main banks in the colony, the Commercial and the Union. The Bank of Montreal also sustained a branch in the building until 1985 when it donated the building to the City of St. John’s. Currently the building is used to house the Anna Templeton Centre, a non-profit crafts and arts training and education centre.

The Bank of British North America is architecturally significant because of its associations with architect David Stirling. Stirling is best known for the fine banking establishments and Gothic Revival style churches he built in Halifax during the mid to late 19th century. The Bank of British North America was one of Stirling’s first attempts at the Italianate design, which he later replicated in the second Bank of British North America that he built in Halifax. Following the construction of these buildings Stirling partnered with William Hay, creating some of the most impressive Italianate structures in Halifax.

The building is also architecturally significant because it is a good example of the Italianate design in St. John’s downtown core. The ground level of the building is quite prominent with its elaborate window trim and detailing, while the second and third storey windows are modest, typical of the Italianate design. The first and second storeys have long, rectangular windows, while the third floor has smaller square windows, a visual signal of the importance of the interior floors of the building. Stone cornices, moulded arches and keystone decoration demonstrate the quality of materials used and the fine craftsmanship of architect David Stirling. Though the later addition of a mansard roof with pedimented dormers altered the appearance of the building by changing the proportions and putting emphasis on the upper level, the Italianate character remains largely intact. The interior, which was rebuilt after being destoryed in the Great Fire, features impressive woodworking and stained glass windows.

Source: Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador property file “St. John’s – Bank of British North America – FPT 1623”

Character Defining Elements

All elements that define the building’s Italianate design including:
-elaborate decoration on first storey windows followed by moderate decoration on the second storey window and no decoration on the third storey windows, typical of the Italianate design;
-exterior detailing typical of the Italianate design;
-stringcourse separating the first and second storeys;
-size, shape and location of windows;
-size, shape and location of doors;
-mansard roof with dormer windows;
-pale colour of exterior stone; and,
-size and dimensions building.

All those interior features that relate to the building as being a banking establishment including:
-interior woodworking located in manager's office; and,
-stained glass window with "BBNA" inscription.

Location and History

Community St. John's
Municipality City of St. John's
Civic Address 278 Duckworth Street
Construction 1849 - 1849
Architect
David Stirling
Style Italianate
Building Plan Square
Website Link http://www.annatempletoncentre.com/