The Canadian Birkbeck Investment and Savings Company was the initial owner of what is today the Ontario Heritage Centre – the Ontario Heritage Trust’s headquarters. The Company was one of a group of financial institutions that emerged in the late 19th century to provide mortgages and debentures. In keeping with a common practice of the day, the Company required a building that would house not only its banking services and corporate offices, but would also include several floors of rental office space that could be used as a source of revenue and future expansion space.
Award-winning Toronto architect George W. Gouinlock had just achieved prominence when he was commissioned to design the Company’s new headquarters. He already had three bank buildings to his credit by this time. The Birkbeck Building represents Gouinlock’s earliest use of the beaux arts style of architecture that was becoming popular with financial institutions for the image of stability and prosperity it projected. Built between 1908 and 1909, the building is a fine example of beaux arts architecture and construction methods considered to be state of the art at the time. The building’s fireproofed steel structure with terracotta infill was no doubt a response to the Great Fire of 1904 that had devastated much of downtown Toronto. Gouinlock’s initial design called for a seven-storey building. For reasons unknown, the additional storeys were not built.
10 Adelaide Street East remained the property of the Company and its successor, the Canadian Mortgage and Investment Company, until 1927 when the building was sold to the Standard Bank. Ownership of the structure subsequently passed to several corporations and individuals before the Ontario Heritage Trust purchased it in 1985.