Description of Historic Place
The Vernon Federal Building, located in the downtown commercial district of Vernon, is a two-storey, flat-roofed, L-shaped building. It features modern elements borrowed from the International Style which include the use of smooth, flat surfaces, horizontal bands of windows, the absence of decorative elements and the use of colour to highlight structural elements. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Vernon Federal Building is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
The Vernon Federal Building illustrates the growth of federal government services during the 1950s, and the government’s efforts to expand the delivery of federal social programs by erecting small federal buildings in local communities. Within the City of Vernon, the construction of the Vernon Federal Building marked the beginning of commercial/government development along the northern edge of the city’s commercial area.
The Vernon Federal Building is a good example of the modern style of architecture adopted for federal government buildings during the 1950s and 1960s. The ‘federal modern’ style incorporated some elements of the International style. The building was designed by Vancouver architectural firm Sharp and Thompson, Berwick, Pratt, who were pioneers in introducing modernism to Vancouver and in developing the West Coast style of architecture. Designed by the firm under the supervision of the Department of Public Works, it is a relatively undistinguished example of the firm’s work.
The Vernon Federal Building is compatible with the government commercial character of its setting. It is well known in the city by virtue of its function in providing essential government services.
Sources: M. Lee, Vernon Federal Building, Vernon, British Columbia, Federal Heritage Building Review Office, Background Information for FHBRO Review, 96-120; Vernon Federal Building, Vernon, British Columbia, Heritage Character Statement, 96-120.
The following character-defining elements of the Vernon Federal Building should be respected.
Its role in the federal government’s efforts in the 1950s to expand the delivery of social services by erecting small federal buildings in local communities, as reflected by:
-its prominent location within the City of Vernon; and,
-its size, permitting the delivery of various government services in addition to the post office.
Its federal modern style of architecture, and functional design, for example:
-the asymmetrical facades on both street fronts; a flat roof; horizontal bands of windows on both levels; columns expressed on the building’s exterior; the use of smooth, flat, concrete surfaces as spandrels and shear walls; the restriction of decoration to incised lines in the concrete shear walls, and the use of lightwells at basement level along the north, south and east elevations;
-the low-rise, concrete planters adjacent to the building’s east elevation, which integrate the site with the overall design of the building;
-the main floor post office area, second floor office space, basement storage area and provision of multiple stairwells linking the three levels; and,
-the lightwells located at basement level along three elevations, which provide natural light to lower work areas.
The manner in which the Vernon Federal Building is compatible with the government/ commercial character of the setting, and is well known within the city as evidenced by:
-its low-rise height and its modern style of architecture; and,
-its function in providing government services.