Profile: Former Bank of Nova Scotia Building, 1887-1997

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The failure of the Commercial Bank of Newfoundland and the Union Bank of Newfoundland on December 10, 1894, put the island on the verge of financial collapse. On December 12, Thomas Fyshe, Cashier of the Bank of Nova Scotia, informed his Board of Directors of the suspension of Newfoundland’s banks. Two days later, two officers of the Bank, David Waters, the Bank’s Inspector, and John A. McLeod, a relieving agent, boarded a ship for St. John’s. Arriving in St. John’s on December 16, the two opened the Bank of Nova Scotia for business five days later.

J.A. McLeod

John A. McLeod, Bank of Nova Scotia agent at Harbour Grace

Business progressed so quickly that a second branch opened in Harbour Grace on February 21, 1895. McLeod served as its first agent and went on to become President and Chairman of the Bank. This first Bank of Nova Scotia was constructed on the south side of Water Street. However, fire destroyed this building in 1910, and the bank moved to a new location on the north side of Water Street, just across the street from its former residence. Originally constructed in 1887, this brick building served as the Bank of Nova Scotia in Harbour Grace for 68 years (1910-1978).

The bank was housed on the ground floor, which featured a high, 16-foot ceiling, with the second storey serving as an apartment for the bank manager.

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Thirty-four years later, another devastating fire—the third ‘Great Fire’ of Harbour Grace—destroyed much of the downtown area on August 17, 1944. Luckily, this bank was spared its former’s fate, one of the few buildings still standing in this area of town.

In 1978, the Bank moved to a new home, just east of its former building (now the Town Hall). After this move, the building served as an office for Babb Construction Ltd for years. As a major firm in Conception Bay, Babb Construction built the former liquor store, Manpower and Immigration Building, and new Bank in Harbour Grace; in Carbonear, they built the swimming pool. Other projects included the Carbonear bypass road and various municipal water and sewer initiatives.

After sitting vacant for years, and despite efforts to save the structure, the building was eventually torn down in 1997. Though it was offered to the Town at no charge, the municipality did not have the estimated $60,000 needed to restore the structure. Despite being one of the oldest commercial buildings left on Water Street post-1944, it never received heritage protection under any municipal or provincial designation program.

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