A MULTI-FACETED RURAL COMMERCIAL HISTORY: A BRIEF CHRONOLOGY OF THE BANK OF COMMERCE AND TURCOTT BUILDING
More than a century old, the Pincher Creek Bank of Commerce, also known in the community as the Turcott building, offers a unique history in local commercial development, accompanied by a distinctive architectural style. Three successive businesses and public institutions – the Bank of Commerce, the Municipalities of Robert Kerr and Pincher Creek, and the law offices of Turcott and Company – have been housed in this eye-catching structure.
This impressive pre-fabricated building was constructed in 1906 as the Pincher Creek headquarters for the Canadian Bank of Commerce, prominently located at the southeast corner of Main Street and East Avenue. The local branch opened the previous August in a temporary abode but the volume of banking warranted new facilities almost immediately. In an interesting attempt to provide adequate business space and customize a common look for its rural branch operations across the Canadian Prairies, the Bank arranged for nearly fifty business blocks of similar design and construction. The buildings were pre-fabricated on the west coast and transported via rail to their small town destinations. For its Pincher Creek operation, building materials were drayed the final two miles into town from the closest rail depot at Pincher City. Noteworthy of these two-storey frame structures were the bank’s business operations housed on the main floor, accompanied by a second level company apartment which provided living quarters for the district managers. A staircase to the right of the front entrance provided access to the upper level. A brick chimney system flanked the east wall of the structure and an upper level attic ran the full length of the building. The building’s exterior, re-sided many times over the decades, nevertheless was distinctively decorated with attached pillars and cornices. The Pincher Creek landmark is one of the few Bank of Commerce buildings still standing. A smaller, similarly designed trophy building displayed local agricultural and sports awards appreciated by the public and placed in front of the bank itself, enhanced the Bank’s local appeal.
The Bank flourished until the tough economic times of the Great Depression. In late 1934, the local branch was forced to close its doors. The building was quickly purchased for 2,000 dollars by the Municipal District of Robert Kerr (the rural municipality south of town) to be used as administrative offices. These became the offices of the newly established Municipal District of Pincher Creek in 1944. In both instances, their offices were situated on the west side of the main floor, while the law offices of Jackson & Carswell, then Carswell & Butterwick and, finally, Turcott & Co. occupied the east portion. Upstairs, long-time Municipal Secretary Lillian Simpson resided in the two-and-a-half room apartment during the 1940s and 1950s. The law firm’s library was also on the top floor.
When the Municipal District of Pincher Creek acquired its Kettles Street building in 1964, the structure was purchased by Turcott and Company, which continued to use the building until 1989. Purchased by a Lethbridge based architectural firm, the building was moved to a site on Hewetson Avenue. A quarter of a century later, this historical icon was adeptly transported by the same movers to the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village where its stories from the past are being preserved.