Monday, June 7, 2010

The Tallest Building in the British Empire

Toronto, 1935ish

I just stumbled across this photo taken from the island sometime around 1935. The tall skyscraper on the right is the Bank of Commerce Building, which, from the time it was finished in 1931 right up until 1962, was the tallest building in the British Empire.

It was designed by the architects at Pearson and Darling, the same firm responsible for U of T's Convocation Hall, the original ROM, the original AGO, the Dominion Bank Building at One King West and a bunch of other shit. These days the building is still used by the CIBC under the uninspiring name "Commerce Court North"; it's hidden in among the newer bank towers on King, right across the street from the Scotiabank building. It also has a kickass observation deck on the 32nd floor, decorated with four giant, gargoylesque heads meant to represent bank-approved virtues like "Enterprise" and "Foresight". It was closed to the public, though, after the view got blocked by newer buildings.

The stockier building on the left-hand side of the photo is the Royal York Hotel, which had apparently broken Toronto's old height bylaw to become the tallest building in the Empire before the Bank of Commerce Building stole its crown. Near the middle of the picture, on the right-hand side of that cluster of buildings there, you can just make out the clock tower of Old City Hall.

Torontoist has a much more detailed post about the building's history here.   


  1. These buildings are so huge it's just amazing i was wondering how builders made these Tallest Buildings in the World at that time

  2. Margaret MacLeod BucknamMarch 16, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    I have a picture of my father on a steel girder building the Commerce Court North Tower. You can see the railway lines all the way to Lake Ontario. The view looking south was unobstructed to the lake.