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Visiting the Bank of Canada Building, Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario: neo-Classical structure by S.G.Davenport

Updated on November 28, 2013
Flag of Canada
Flag of Canada | Source
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Central Bank of Canada building, Wellington Street, Ottawa
Central Bank of Canada building, Wellington Street, Ottawa | Source
Information panel, Central Bank of Canada building, Wellington Street, Ottawa
Information panel, Central Bank of Canada building, Wellington Street, Ottawa | Source
 Relief of the coat of arms of Canada on the Bank of Canada Building in Ottawa.
Relief of the coat of arms of Canada on the Bank of Canada Building in Ottawa. | Source
Right Honourable W. L Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, 1945
Right Honourable W. L Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, 1945 | Source

Graceful lines to the headquarters of a trusted, Canadian institution

This fine, neo-Classical (1), stone building in Ottawa, Ontario, heaquarters of the Bank of Canada / Banque du Canada, dates from 1937/38, and was designed by architect S. G. Davenport (2). Interestingly, initial plans submitted were rejected as being too similar to the headquarters of the Bank of England in London! (3) What was eventually to be chosed was to be an architectual plan for a Canadian building, designed in Canada.

The structure is executed in grey granite, which was mined in Quebec. Particularly prominent over the main entrance of the Wellington Street frontage is a large relief of the arms of Canada. Large bronze doors, and statues representing various, significant Canadian industries are placed at this Wellington Street elevation also.

The laying of the Bank building's cornerstone was presided over in 1937 by Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950), together with the Bank's Governor Graham Powers.

While it was Mr King who formally opened the Bank, his predecessor as Prime Minister of Canada Richard Bennett also played a substantial part in the Bank's creation in 1935.

An information panel about the Bank and its history is strategically placed on the north side of the sidewalk opposite the Bank's main entrance.

In 1979, a glass atrium was completed, which expanded the building's internal space.

In 2012 the Bank embarked on a further program of expansion for the current headquarters, 'in a way that preserved the architectural heritage and integrity of the original buildings' (4).

The building houses the Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada (already described by me elsewhere).

This is thus an elegant base for Canada's central bankers. One can see how architectural tastes and customs develop over the decades in that, while 'modern'-looking at its inception,the building by S. G. Davenport would now be reckoned to be almost 'traditional' in its appearance. (Maybe also the structure provides a lesson in just how unsatisfactory are the terms 'modern' and 'traditional', when not qualified futher. Whether In architecture, clothing or in so many areas, the often cyclically driven styles and tastes which come into vogue and then subsequently wane, need surely to be defined more precisely than merely in accordance with their perceived appeal to a sense of newness or modernity.)

The Bank of Canada building is at 234 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, a short walking distance from Parliament Hill / Colline du Parlement.

November 29, 2013


(1) Strictly speaking, the term Late Neo-Classical would be particularly appropriate here.

(2) Architect Davenport, of Montréal, was also responsible for the Royal Bank building, Vancouver, B.C.

(3) Interestingly also, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada 2008-2013, assumed responsibility as Governor of the Bank of England in July 2013.

(4) Source:

Map location of Ottawa, Ontario
Map location of Ottawa, Ontario | Source

Also worth seeing

In Ottawa itself, among its many visitor attractions are: the Parliament buildings, Laurier House, the Chateau Laurier, the National War Memorial, Rideau Hall and many museums.

Gatineau , Quebec (distance from Downtown Ottawa: 2 kilometres); its Citizen's House (French: Masion du citoyen) has a noted art gallery; its Hall of the Nations (French: Hall des nations) contains valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Gatineau Park (French: Parc de la Gatineau) has many recreational and scenic possibilities.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa; car rental is available; however, visitors may wish instead to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within the Ottawa / Gatineau area. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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