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Old Post Office

115 Prince William Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1982/03/18

This photograph shows the contextual view of the building, 2005.; City of Saint John
Old Post Office - Contextual view
This photograph shows the clock and the roof-line, 2005.; City of Saint John
Old Post Office - Clock
This photograph shows the main entrance to the building, 2005.; City of Saint John
Old Post Office - Entrance

Other Name(s)

n/a

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1881/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/03/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Old Post Office is a large three-and-a-half storey stone Second Empire building with high Roman arch windows and a mansard roof. It faces Prince William Street and extends to Water Street in the rear, creating two basement levels on Water Street. It is located within the boundary of the Trinity Royal area of the City of Saint John.

Heritage Value

Old Post Office is designated a Local Historic Place for its architecture and for its former use as a post office.

Old Post Office is one of a collection of Second Empire government buildings that were built between 1877 and 1881 after two thirds of the City of Saint John were destroyed by the fire in 1877. Constructed in 1881, it is an excellent example of institutional Second Empire architecture from the rebuilding period in Saint John. This style is evident in such details as the mansard roof, the elaborate attic and dormer windows, the rectangular massing and the various arched door and window openings. The richly sculpted style of this building is similar to buildings constructed through the United States government's Post Civil War Construction Program. Making use of the sloping terrain, the building contains three storeys and an attic above Prince William Street, with two extra basement storeys on the Water Street façade. This was the City of Saint John's first iron frame building. The use of iron and stone represented the will for the city to rebuild, as well or better, after the fire. Thomas Scott, chief architect of the Public Works Department, was the main architect. During his ten years in this position, Scott designed twenty-seven custom houses and post offices. Matthew Stead was the local architect who assisted with revisions to the original plan for the building.

Aside from being in the Trinity Royal Preservation Area, Old Post Office is one of a collection of buildings that form the federally protected Prince William Street Historic Streetscape, the first of its kind. This historic streetscape is distinguished by its rare concentration of homogeneous, primarily late 19th-century architecture. Traditionally referred to as the “Wall Street of Saint John”, the area contains major public buildings, banks, hotels, insurance, shipping and legal offices, and the Seamen's Institute.

Old Post Office is also recognized because it served as Saint John's main post office for 34 years from 1881 to 1915. It is built on the foundation of the former post office that was destroyed in the 1877 fire. In 1915, the building was replaced by a new structure across the street. Old Post Office was then converted into offices for the Federal Government and later sold to the city and used for various purposes.

Source: Planning and Development Department - City of Saint John

Character-Defining Elements

The character defining elements that describe the Second Empire architecture of Old Post Office include:
- large, rectangular three-and-a-half storey massing, with two extra basement levels on the Water Street façade;
- stone exterior walls;
- Roman arch, segmented arch and rectangular windows and door openings with decorative elements;
- three carved faces in the keystones of the two window openings and entrance in central bay at ground level, depicting the voyageurs, Canada's earliest mail messengers;
- mansard roof with dormers above the attic;
- curved pediment above the clock;
- Canadian Coat of Arms in pediment;
- bracketed stone cornice;
- pilasters separating the bays;
- ground floor's central bay entrance projecting from the main façade, providing a balcony between the first and second floor;
- 1878 datestone;
- "G R" etched into the Roman arch above entrance (Gratia Regina).

Recognition

Jurisdiction

New Brunswick

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (NB)

Recognition Statute

Municipal Heritage Preservation Act, s.5(1)

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Preservation Act

Recognition Date

1982/03/18

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Communications and Transportation
Governing Canada
Government and Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Residence
Multiple Dwelling

Historic

Government
Post Office

Architect / Designer

Thomas Scott

Builder

Mr. Doddridge

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Planning and Development Department - City of Saint John

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

848

Status

Published

Related Places

Prince William Streetscape

Prince William Streetscape National Historic Site of Canada

This streetscape comprises twelve public and commercial buildings in downtown Saint John, New Brunswick. These distinguished late 19th-century, masonry buildings are concentrated…

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