Clothes Encounter, Merchants Banks of Canada

Scott Brown Non-Designated Heritage Properties

Address: 237 Main Street North

Also known as: Clothes Encounter, Merchants Bank of Canada

Description:

The Clothes Encounter – Merchants Bank of Canada Building is a non-designated Heritage Property located at 237 Main Street North on the southeast corner of Main and Fairford streets in downtown Moose Jaw. The property is a two-storey stone and brick-clad structure completed in 1919.

Heritage Value:

The heritage value of Clothes Encounter-Merchant’s Bank of Canada building lies in its architecture. Designed by architects R.E. McDonnell and John E. Burrell, Calgary-based partners from 1914 to 1919, the firm created many designs for the Merchants Bank of Canada for use in branches across the Canadian Prairies. Built at a cost of $75,000 and designed in the Beaux-Arts classical style of architecture the building’s ornate decoration speaks to the reliability and affluence of the Merchants Bank. Among its ornate decoration is Tyndall limestone cladding, pilasters, fluted columns with capitals and carved floral motifs, a Main Street entrance surround with entablature that is graced by dentils and surmounted by a carving of the shield of the Merchants Bank of Canada. Other decorative features include a cornice with dentils, a parapet and a pattern of window openings which fill the spaces between pilasters and columns. Prominently located on an intersection near buildings of similar age of construction and ornamentation, it is a key feature of the downtown streetscape.

The heritage value of the Clothes Encounter- Merchants Bank of Canada Building also rests in its role in Moose Jaw’s economic and social development. This building is situated on the original site of the Gothic styled and red-brick clad, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. As the congregation grew with the City, the Church began looking for a new site to build a much larger church, ultimately settling on lots on Athabasca Street East. The Canadian Pacific Railway realizing the church was quickly outgrowing its sanctuary, once proposed purchasing the site in 1911 to build a new office block, but it was eventually sold to the Merchants Bank of Canada. Arriving in Moose Jaw in 1911, the Bank initially set up in the Grayson Block, now demolished, on High Street. Highly optimistic about Moose Jaw and the Prairies, the bank reportedly planned to build a six-storey block at the corner of High Street and Ninth Avenue North West. Arrival of war and the downturn in real estate development that followed, however, put an end to those plans.

The Merchants Bank, although somewhat curbed in its optimism, took the bold step in 1917 of hiring Regina architectural firm Storey and Van Egmond, to design a building on the lots immediately south of the Clothes Encounter – Merchants Bank Building to house a temporary branch for the bank. The original Merchants Bank Building was occupied by the bank while this more ornate building was constructed next door. It served that purpose until 1919, later becoming an Army and Navy Departments Store for decades and today is a Municipally Designated Heritage Site that is part of the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre complex. The Merchants Bank occupied the Clothes Encounter-Merchants Bank Building from 1919 until 1922 when the Bank was absorbed by the Bank of Montreal after facing financial troubles due to poor returns on investments and loans. The local branch of the Bank of Montreal left its quarters across the street that year from what is now the Bank of Nova Scotia Building, and moved its branch to this site. It served as a Bank of Montreal Branch until 1984, becoming a Canada Trust branch until the late 1990s when it was adaptively reused as retail space.

Character-Defining Elements:

The heritage value The Clothes Encounter-Merchants Bank of Canada building resides in the following character-defining elements:

  • its prominent location at the intersection Main Street North and Fairford Street in the downtown area near other buildings of similar age of construction and ornamentation, and adjacent the temporary Merchants Bank of Canada branch building designed by notable Saskatchewan architectural firm Story and Van Egmond;
  • the Beaux-Arts classical elements of its architecture including its ornate Tyndall limestone cladding, fluted columns with capitals and carved stone floral motifs, cornice with dentils and parapet;
  • Other decorative features such as the Main Street entrance surround and entablature with dentils that is surmounted by a stone carving bearing the shield of the Merchants Bank of Canada.

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Build Date: 1919 | Designation Date: Non-designated Heritage Property