The former site of a branch of the Bank of Montreal, at 577 Queen Street West, on the southeast corner of Portland and Queen West, c. 1910

In the 19th century, for over 25 years, a furniture store owned by R. Potter was on the southeast corner of Portland and Queen Street West. In 1899, the building containing the store was demolished to construct a bank. It was designed by Frederick H. Herbert, one of Toronto’s most prominent architects in that decade. He designed homes for wealthy patrons in Rosedale, Parkdale and the Annex.

Born in Bath, England, Herbert arrived in Toronto in 1889. His preference was to create buildings that displayed symmetry, with detailed ornamentations. One of the finest houses he designed was for Thomas W. Horn, in 1898, on the corner of St. George and Prince Arthur. Herbert was also the architect of the Dineen Building on Yonge Street, and in 1910, he received a commission for a three-storey addition to Osgoode Hall.

The bank at Queen and Portland opened in 1901. It was named the Ontario Bank and its manager was John Randall, who lived in an apartment above the bank. In 1908, the Ontario Bank was purchased and became a branch of the Bank of Montreal, but John Randall remained its manager. In 1910, when the above photo was taken, one of the tenants renting space above the bank was Ogden Winter, who was a dentist. John Randall remained in residence on the site in that year as well.   

When the Ontario Bank opened, it was an impressive addition to the street. It was ornamented with classical designs, meant to impress customers and encourage them to deposit funds and arrange financial transactions with the bank. The facades on the ground-floor level have red bricks. The second and third floors have yellow bricks and contained offices and residential apartments. There is an impressive entrance at the southwest corner of the building (on Portland Street) that gives access to a staircase that leads to the upper floors. The cornice at the top of the structure is exceptionally well detailed, with classical designs and Wedgewood-style patterns.

Today, the bank is located on the corner opposite the Loblaws store at Queen and Portland. It is doubtful that many people notice the building and its exceptionally fine ornamentations. However, this structure is one of Queen West’s finest surviving buildings from the early-20th century and a fine example of the work of the architect Frederick H. Herbert.


              The old bank building during the summer of 2013.     


      The west facade of the old Bank of Ontario (Montreal), facing Portland Street.


The northwest coroner of the building, which in 1901 contained the entrance to the bank. The doorway was angled to allow access from either Queen or Portland Streets.


The cornice of the old bank building, with ornate modillions below it, as well as Wedgewood-style patterns and a row of dentils.


A window on the north facade, with brick pilasters on either side, which are capped with terracotta tiles that are an ornate version of Ionic capitals.


Terracotta tiles that decorate the top of the pilasters on either side of the windows on Queen Street.


Decorative details above a window on the first-floor level of the old bank.


View of the old Bank of Montreal at Queen and Portland Streets and the buildings on the east side of it. The east facade of the Loblaws store on Portland Street is on the right-hand side of the picture. View is from the north side of Queen West, in 2014.

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Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


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