The first bank in Clifton was the Zimmerman Bank on the corner of Bridge Street and Clifton Avenue (now Zimmerman Avenue). It was opened in 1855 by Samuel Zimmerman, “founder” of Niagara Falls. After he died in a tragic railway accident in 1857, the bank’s name changed to the Bank of Clifton. However, just two years later control passed to two “shady” Americans, who used the good reputation of Canadian banks to push large quantities of bank notes in the U.S., with no intention of redeeming them. The bank’s charter was revoked in 1863.
The Bank of Hamilton opened in the city in 1894. The large brick building on the northwest corner of Queen Street and Erie Avenue was the first large business block on Queen Street. It anchored the business area until 1924, when the Canadian Bank of Commerce absorbed the Bank of Hamilton. The building is still standing today.
In 1907, the Bridge Street branch of the Imperial Bank of Canada was “elegantly furnished and fitted with modern and improved burglar and fireproof vaults and safes of the finest construction, and every appliance for the safeguarding of the moneys deposited”. The bank merged with the Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1964, and became the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Chippawa boasted a Royal Bank of Canada in Cummington Square, and Niagara Falls had early branches on Bridge Street at Zimmerman, and Centre Street at Victoria Avenue. Today, RBC is the largest bank in Canada.
The Merchants Bank of Canada, later the Bank of Montreal, opened on Erie Avenue in 1916, and by 1919 had moved to Queen Street. Today (2017) there are three Bank of Montreal locations in the city, including the original, still at the same location on Queen Street.
The Dominion Bank was another early mainstay of the downtown area. It was launched in Toronto in 1871 and had opened a Queen Street branch by the early 1920s. It amalgamated with the Bank of Toronto to form the Toronto-Dominion Bank in 1954.