Living where you worked
For some employees, one of the benefits of working at the bank was free accommodation.
Several of our branches across Canada had a small residence above or built on the side of them for bachelors or managers and their families. During this time, male employees had to be unmarried if living with other employees above the branch.
Both employees and the bank found this beneficial. Employees were given a rent-free room, enabling them focus more on helping customers make real financial progress and not worry about accommodations. For the bank, it meant employees were on hand during evenings or weekends. Some of the branches even had hatches in the residence so officers, acting as unofficial security guards, could easily look down.
For managers, nearby buildings were often purchased or erected, as well, where they could live with their family while they had oversight of the local branch.
The first recorded instance of BMO providing free accommodations dates to 1847 when the construction of the new main branch in Montreal was completed. Officers were also entitled to firewood, lighting and water in addition to their salary. The practice (in updated form) continued to at least the mid 1970s. Visitors to the Montreal main branch can still see the doors to these accommodations located in the Dome Building.
Image: Photograph of the Corner Brook, Curling Branch in Newfoundland with the manager’s residence attached, c. 1970.