Post Office and Customs House
Old Post Office
Old Police Station
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Constructed by Thomas Fuller in 1885, this impressive three-storey Romanesque Revival structure of limestone construction exhibits a colossal presence at the corner of Park Street and Zimmerman Avenue in the heart of downtown Niagara Falls. This predominantly grey building features a mansard roof with centre gables on each facade and massive round-headed archways on a corner entrance that effectively creates a dual stairway.
The property was designated for its heritage value in 1978 by the City of Niagara Falls under By-law 78-25.
The Old Post Office and Customs House is associated with Thomas Fuller, the government architect who designed the first Parliament buildings in Ottawa. The original “Zimmerman” post office, built by Samuel Zimmerman, was located on the corner of Clifton Avenue and Bridge Street, but moved in 1885 to the new Dominion Government Building. Its dignified presence continues to impress and is a reminder of the prosperous downtown business district of the former Village of Elgin. Sharing the building was the Customs House, which occupied the second floor. A furnace explosion in 1927 nearly destroyed the edifice, but after temporarily relocating the services, the old building was enlarged and remodelled and it functioned solely as a customs office, due to the relocation of the Post Office to Queen Street and St. Clair Avenue. After 1952 the building remained vacant for a time before the City purchased it for use as the police headquarters until 1978.
The building is a remarkable example of limestone construction in the Romanesque Revival style. Its exterior detailing is very impressive for its time of construction, and is an excellent example of many typical post offices and custom houses designed around this time by federal government architects. The truncated hip roof with cross gables and the quoining at all corners contribute to the commanding presence of the building. The main entrance is recessed and the corner of the building has two magnificent round-headed arches supported by a limestone pillar with a Corinthian entablature. The positioning of the pillar effectively creates a double stairway which leads to the striking main entrance of double leaf wooden doors with glass panes on the upper half. The south façade boasts three bays and stands two-and-a-half storeys high. The large centre gables are flanked with small dormers on either side, and the limestone has been diamond-cut on the head of the windows for effective decoration.
The Post Office and Customs House is valuable to the landscape of the downtown because it is one of many heritage properties deemed significant to the development of the downtown and the wider community. The building is similar to surrounding structures in its size and age, and functioned as a significant location for communication and government operations.
Sources: By-law No. 78-25; Planning and Development, City of Niagara Falls, 1978; “Post Office and Customs House”, Heritage Committee, City of Niagara Falls, 1976; “Zimmerman Post Office”, Planning and Development, City of Niagara Falls, n.d.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of the Post Office and Customs House include its:
- location on a corner lot, emphasizing its importance in the heart of the downtown
- integral part of a streetscape of similar height and construction material for other buildings, many of which are also designated for heritage value
- surviving elements of the original mouldings of the ceiling underneath the new false ceiling installed during the remodelling
- double leaf wooden doors
- limestone used for the building's exterior
- quoining at all corners of the limestone walls
- truncated hip roof with cross gables facing north and south
- timber roof covered in thin slate
- single limestone chimney located at the north end of the roof
- massive round-headed arches at the southwest corner of the building
- limestone gable at the south façade with a diamond cut on the head of the windows, and a decorative rosette in the centre of the gable
- double hung sash windows with decorative supports
- paired first floor windows of rectangular shape with decorative entablature
Local Governments (ON)
Ontario Heritage Act
Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Communications and Transportation
Function - Category and Type
- Customs Building
- Post Office
- Police Station
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Planning and Development
4310 Queen Street
Niagara Falls, ON
Cross-Reference to Collection