OTD: Bank of Nova Scotia opens first branch

On today’s date in 1832, the Bank of Nova Scotia opened for business in John Romans’ building in Halifax.

Initially, the bank’s goal was “to facilitate the thriving trans-Atlantic trade between Britain, North America and the West Indies,” according to “The Scotiabank Story,” an article published by the bank, which is branded as Scotiabank.

Eight months earlier, on New Year’s Eve, a group of local businessmen met in Halifax’s Merchants Exchange Coffee House to explore “a public bank as an alternative to the privately owned Halifax Banking Company.”

After receiving royal assent in March with an authorized capital of £100,000, “of which £50,000 had to be paid up before business could begin,” the bank became the first chartered bank in Nova Scotia, notes the article.

The coffee house also played host to the bank’s first shareholders’ meeting that May, and when the first branch opened in August, its staff included:

  • cashier and chief operating officer James Forman;
  • tellers Alexander Paul and Benjamin Carlile; and
  • messenger James Maxwell.

In 1874, another branch in Saint John, N.B., became the bank’s first venture outside of Nova Scotia. The following decade, the bank expanded with branches in Toronto, Winnipeg, the U.S. and even Kingston, Jamaica. By the beginning of the 20th century, the bank’s headquarters were relocated from Halifax to Toronto. More branches followed in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Regina and Saskatoon.

In August 1931, the bank moved its Halifax branch into what’s now “one of our most authentically Canadian buildings,” according to the article.

Pre-eminent Canadian Architect John M. Lyle designed 1709 Hollis St. “from its structure to its decorative features, fixtures, and furniture, injecting motifs depicting Canadian natural and economic history throughout the building. This jewel of Canadian architecture continues to house our Atlantic Regional Office, and Halifax Main Branch.”

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