Financial District

Plaque

In 1888, the Bank of British Columbia and Bank of Montreal became the first of many financial institutions to open their offices on Hastings Street west of Cambie in the developing downtown. By 1912, Hastings was firmly established as the city’s financial district with ten elegant buildings lining the street between Hornby and Cambie.

On this site stood the McKinnon Building, home to the Canadian Bank of Commerce before the construction of their new head office across the street in 1908. The modernist landmark United Kingdom Building by Semmens and Simpson replaced the older block in 1959.

The importance of this corner is emphasized by the presence of the 1910 Main Post Office and its landmark clock tower, the former Canadian Bank of Commerce temple bank building from 1908 and the sleek 1929 Art Deco tower of the Royal Bank of Canada.

Sponsored by Hastings West

History

Originally centred around Main and Hastings, Vancouver’s financial district began moving west along Hastings Street in the 1900s. The CPR surveyed Granville Street as their main commercial street, and attempted to pull development towards it, west of the old Granville Townsite, persuading the Bank of Montreal to accept a new bank site on Granville Street. By 1912, there were 10 bank buildings facing onto Hastings Street between Granville and Cambie Street.  Many are constructed in the ‘temple bank’ style imported from eastern North America, which became a symbol of strength, solidity and prosperity. 

850 West Hastings, Crédit Foncier Building. Designed by Barrott, Blackader & Webster and completed in 1914, this office building has long been admired in the city as one of the finest of its era. Its owner was a Montreal-based mortgage lender. As was the case with many office buildings of the day, its elevation is divided into three distinct parts, corresponding to the base, shaft and capital of a classical temple column.

698 West Hastings, Birks Building. A 1908 “temple bank” by Toronto architects Darling & Pearson for the Canadian Bank of Commerce, this building was converted into retail space for Birks jewellers in 1994. Birks, based in Montreal, took over Trorey’s Jewellers and its street clock (directly across Hastings) in the early 1900s; when Birks moved to Granville and Georgia in 1913 it took the clock along, where it became a beloved landmark and a place to rendezvous. The clock moved back down Granville to Hastings with Birks in 1994.

685 West Hastings, Royal Bank Building. The city’s first bank skyscraper, completed in 1931 during the Great Depression, has a superb Florentine banking hall that should be visited! Designed by architects Sumner Godfrey Davenport, it replaced the firm’s 1903 “temple bank” at Hastings and Homer and shifted the centre of gravity of the city’s institutions to the west.

580 West Hastings, Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The neoclassical-style Union Bank Building from 1920 (by Somervell & Putnam) that became a Toronto Dominion branch, this building was donated to Simon Fraser University and incorporated into Conference Plaza, which includes the hotel next door, in a 1999 conversion. Its namesake was a local developer and philanthropist whose family was prominent in the furniture business.

490 West Hastings, the Bank of British Columbia, designed by T.C. Sorby in 1889 in the Italian Renaissance style. Headquartered in Victoria, the bank was created in 1862 by a group of financiers in London, England, and merged with the Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1901. It was part of the “bankers’ row” between Granville and Homer in the years before the First World War

404 West Hastings, Royal Bank of Canada. This was the bank’s head office until it completed its skyscraper at Granville Street. Architects Dalton & Eveleigh completed it in 1903, when it was the first “temple bank,” so named for its classical detailing. It housed the Georgian Club for women in the 1980s and 1990s.

Sources

Nearby Places That Matter

Media & Photos

Address

698 W Hastings St. (Birks building)

Coordinates

49.284952, -123.113976

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