Toronto’s architectural gems—the Bank of Commerce (CIBC) on King Street

18 Feb

Although the Art-Deco Bank of Commerce building in Commerce Court is no longer the tallest structure in Toronto, it remains one of the most impressive buildings in the city and deserves recognition for its architectural excellence. Plans to erect it commenced in 1927, amid the optimism that dominated the Roaring Twenties. In that era, economic horizons appeared limitless, and the Bank of Commerce, as it was then called, wanted a headquarters that reflected its financial importance in the community. They hired the architectural firm of  Darling and Pearson, assisted by the firm of York and Sawyer of New York City. Darling and Pearson also designed the Summerhill Train Station, that is today an LCBO outlet.

The site of the bank tower, at 25 King Street West, was at the corner of King and Jordon Streets. The bank had occupied this site for many years. However, in the early days of the town of York, the first Methodist Church had been located there. The church was eventually to become Metropolitan United Church, at Queen Street East and Church Street.

Plaque- Bank of Com      DSCN7521 

The plaque on the Bank of Commerce Building (CIBC) today, which commemorates the historic importance of the site where the skyscraper is located. The plaque is attached to the east facade of the building, on Jordon Street.  The left-hand picture is an artist’s sketch of the church of 1818.

Construction on the new bank building began on 19 June 1929. In the year construction commenced, the tallest structure in Toronto was the 120-metre Royal York Hotel, the largest hotel in the British Empire. New York City’s buildings surpassed those of its neighbour to the north, so in Canada, the word “tallest” was often applied within the context of the British Empire, to give the word significance. Toronto residents watched in fascination as the tower rose, until it reached its ultimate heights of 141 metres—34 storeys.  When the structure was completed in January of 1931, it was the tallest building in the city and the tallest in the British Empire. It was to maintain this distinction until 1962. 

The building’s  steel and concrete frame was clad in limestone. Its style was mainly Art Dec, though some believed it to be more Beaux Arts. The tower contained set-backs at various levels and the facades possessed Romanesque Revival detailing, The long vertical rows of windows rose in orderly rows from above the six-story base, ascending to the top of the building.  

f1244_it3181[1]   1930

The Bank of Commerce and its surroundings in 1931. The view looks to the northeast. The square-shaped spire of Metropolitan United Church at Queen and Church Streets is visible in the upper-left-hand corner of the picture.

f1231_it0081[1]  1936

King Street West looking east in 1936, toward Yonge Street. The Bank of Commerce is on the right-hand side of the street.  

f1568_it0456[1]view from tower-1930

View in 1931, from the Observation Gallery on the 32-floor of the Bank of Commerce, looking south to the railway lands and the Toronto Islands. The Warehouse Terminal on Queen’s Quay is the only large building beside the lake.  The Harbour Commission Building sits alone, amid open spaces and parking lots. Union Station is in the right-hand bottom corner of the photo. The Observation Deck, where this photo was taken, is no longer open to the public.

s0648_fl0007_id0001[1] view from B of C, 1957

View from the Observation Gallery in 1957, gazing north across the downtown area. The Old City Hall Tower on the left, dominates the scene. The Simpson’s Store (now The Bay) at Queen and Yonge Streets is in the foreground. The canyon of Yonge Street begins in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo. If the eye follows the street northward, the old Heintzman Piano building is visible, a short distance north of Queen Street. Further north, the Westbury Hotel, which opened the year this photo was taken, and Eaton’s College Street (now College Park) are visible. In the upper left-hand corner of the picture is the Legislature at Queen’s Park. 


The Commerce Court Building on the south side of King Street West today, the view facing west along King Street toward University Avenue.


The top of the Bank of Commerce Building, where two of the massive carved-stone heads gaze out across the city. The heads represent Courage, Observation, Foresight, and Enterprise. The rich ornamentation of the tower is also clearly evident.


The huge Banking Hall on the first floor of the building. It soars 6-storeys in height, its ceiling resembling a cathedral, although some believe that it was inspired by the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The vault in the basement extends the equivalent of four storeys below the ground.


The ornate ceiling of the Banking Hall and the support rod for the chandelier. The medallion around the rod has the words, “Integrity, Prudence, Commerce, and Industry.”


The Bank of Commerce Building today, now a part of Commerce Court, headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

To view the Home Page for this blog:

To view other posts about Toronto’s architectural gems:

The Waverly Hotel at Spadina and College

The Bellevue Fire Station on College Street

The Postal Delivery Building, now a part of the Air Canada Centre (ACC)

The Art Deco bus terminal at Bay and Dundas Streets.

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The old Dominion Bank Building at King and Yonge Street

The Canada Life Building on University and Queen Street West.

Campbell House at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue

A study of Osgoode Hall

Toronto’s first City Hall, now a part of the St. Lawrence Market

Toronto’s Draper Street, a time-tunnel into the 19th century

The Black Bull Tavern at Queen and Soho Streets, established in 1822

History of the 1867 fence around Osgoode Hall on Queen Street West at York Street

Gathering around the radio as a child in the 1940s

The opening of the University Theatre on Bloor Street, west of Bay St.

122 persons perish in the Noronic Disaster on Toronto’s waterfront in 1949

Historic Victoria Memorial Square where Toronto’s first cemetery was located, now hidden amid the Entertainment District

Visiting one of Toronto’s best preserved 19th-century streets-Willcocks Avenue

The 1930s Water Maintenance Building on Brant Street, north of St. Andrew’s Park

Toronto’s architectural gems-photos of the Old City from a book published by the city in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems in 1912

Toronto’s architectural gems – the bank on the northeast corner of Queen West and Spadina

Photos of the surroundings of the CN Tower and and the St. Lawrence Market in 1977

The St. Lawrence Hall on King Street

Toronto’s streetcars through the past decades

History of Trinity Bellwoods Park

A history of Toronto’s famous ferry boats to the Toronto Islands

Toronto’s Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Streets

The Reading Building, a warehouse loft on Spadina Avenue

The Darling Building on Spadina Avenue

The amazing Fashion Building on Spadina Avenue

Toronto’s architectural gems – the Tower Building at Spadina and Adelaide Street

The Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina that houses the Dark Horse Espresso Bar

An architectural gem – Grossman’s Tavern at Spadina and Cecil Streets

History of the house that contains the Paul Magder Fur Shop at 202 Spadina

An important historic building that disappeared from the northeast corner of Spadina and College

Historic bank building on northeast corner of Spadina and Queen West

History of the Backpackers’ Hotel at King and Spadina

Hamburger corner – Spadina and Queen Streets

Lord Lansdowne Public School on Spadina Crescent

The Victory Burlesque Theatre at Dundas and Spadina

The Dragon City Mall on the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina

Buildings on the west side of Spadina a short distance north of Queen Street.

History of the site of the Mcdonalds on northwest corner of Queen and Spadina

A former mansion at 235 Spadina that is now almost hidden from view.


Military hero of the War of 1812 lived near corner of Spadina and Queen West.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Toronto


One response to “Toronto’s architectural gems—the Bank of Commerce (CIBC) on King Street

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