National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec.

Construction Period: From 1896 to 1905        Designation Level: Federal

The Canadian Bank of Commerce was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1988 because:

- important services were performed by the bank, from the Gold Rush of 1898 until 1989;

- this Renaissance Revival building is one of Canada's finest surviving structures clad in decorative pressed metal.

The heritage value of Dawson City's Canadian Bank of Commerce lies in its longstanding role in Yukon history, in the excellence and sophistication of its design and composition, particularly in a northern environment, and in its prominent location in the historic Gold Rush town of Dawson. Originally housed in a tent, the Canadian Bank of Commerce relocated several times before finally settling in the current building designed and built by W.P. Skillings and Robert Moncrief in 1901. Its grand architectural style reflects the important services that were performed by the bank, such as the buying and melting of gold into bricks and the brokering of gold on world markets. This structure, with its sophisticated form, was a prominent and visible symbol of the banks significance within the community. It operated as a bank until 1989.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November, 1991; Plaque text, 1991.

Character Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:

- its location in Dawson's business section, relatively isolated from the predominantly wooden structures;

- its rugged, northern setting within the Dawson Historical Complex National Historic Site of Canada, as well as its spatial relationships with other buildings within the complex;

- its cubic two-storey massing under a very low hip roof;

- its Renaissance Revival design with a four-bay symmetrically organized facade, side entry, classically-inspired ornamentation including pilasters, dentilled cornice topped by finials, and alternating pedimented and arched window surrounds on the ground floor with bracketed mouldings above;

- its pressed metal facing worked to resemble stone, particularly in its imitation rustication, fluted pilasters, and decorated entablature topped with anthemion;

- its light-weight platform frame wood construction;

- its original interior plan and remaining original interior furnishings and finishes;

- viewscapes toward the building from Queen and Front streets and from the river.

Historical Sources Location

Dawson Municipal Records. Assessment and Tax Rolls

Dawson City Directories for 1903, 1905-6 and 1915-16

Historical Photographs:

University of Alaska, Bassoc Collection, 64-92-385

University of Alaska, Lulu Fairbanks Collection

Public Archives of Canada C 17027

Public Archives of Canada PA 16339

Public Archives of Canada C 17026

Vancouver City Archives, Canadian Bank of Commerce

Washington State University, Mart Howard Collection, Lantern Slide 127

Geological Survey of Canada, 83149

Banking in the Klondike, Parks Canada, Edward F. Bush #118.

Renovation Information

Permit was issued in October 1986 to construct a fence. No final date

Permit was issued in November 1986 to install a wood burning heater. No final date

Construction Style

Metal siding, decorated cornice with quoins on each corner on first floor pressed decorative capital pillars on second floor. Metal hip roof with small dormer on west wall, has metal hip roof and metal siding. Decorative pressed metal roof ornaments on east wall. Closed stairwell on west wall, addition removed on north wall, stone vault in north east corner of building. Post and beam foundation, metal sheeting removed from north wall, flush planking exposed underneath. Large fixed picture windows east wall, single door east wall, single hung windows rest of building. Decorative trim on windows, decorative pediment alternated with decorative curved pediment with braces on each side of window opening on first floor. On second floor, windows have decorative entablature with braces.

Cultural History

In February 1899, the New York Times reported that "a Canadian Bank of Commerce is to be started in Dawson City.[6]" The bank was appointed agent of the Canadian government for the Yukon district and was to receive all royalties on gold mined in the Yukon. The gold received by the bank was sent to the coast under the escort of the North West Mounted Police.

In 1901, the Bank of Commerce leased land from the Government of Canada on Front Street and constructed a state of the art building. The building was designed by W.P. Skillings, a Seattle architect (who also designed St. Andrew’s Church in Dawson). The building contractor was R. Montcrieff.

The new building was reported as ”handsome and commodious” by the Dawson Weekly News (May 4, 1901) upon its opening. A spiral stairway connected an assay office on the second floor to the main floor. A fireproof vault of stone and concrete was lined with brick. It featured a hoist (elevator) for moving the gold [7]. The second floor assay office was where gold dust and nuggets were converted into gold bars for shipping. The assay furnace was built of fireproof brick and a great deal of asbestos was used to fireproof the walls.

The upstairs apartment boasted the first flush toilets in Dawson. Robert Service, who arrived in 1908, lived in this apartment but moved to his more celebrated rustic cabin with outdoor plumbing on Eighth Avenue when he quit the bank in 1910 [8].

The building was used continuously as the Bank of Commerce (and after 1961 the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) until 1989. It was purchased by the City of Dawson in 2012 and is currently undergoing conservation work. The bank’s business moved to a modern building on Second Avenue.


6. New York Times, 28 February 1900

7. Dawson Weekly News, · 24 May 1901.


Documentation Location

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec.