Postal Station B
Classified Federal Heritage Building
View from Confederation
© Parks Canada (HRS) / Parcs Canada, 1989
47-59 Sparks Street, Confederation Square National Historic Site of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1938 to 1939
Event, Person, Organization:
Postal Station B, Central Post Office
Public Works and Government Services Canada
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
Postal Station B, also known as the Central Post Office, is an eight-storey building in Ottawa’s Confederation Square National Historic Site of Canada. Classically inspired, its cornice heights and its bay replicate those of its neighbour, Langevin Block. The building is constructed of smooth stone, and has a Château-style copper roof, and handsome bronze doors guarded by two stone lions. Its façades are further distinguished by classical regularity and honed-down surface treatment, typical of Art Deco sensibility. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Postal Station B is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
Postal Station B was constructed as a postal substation, between 1938 and 1939, as part of the Confederation Square redevelopment. It is associated with the Diamond Jubilee of the Confederation celebrations in 1927, when the federal government implemented a massive redevelopment of downtown Ottawa. The new post office was crucial in the redesigning of the eastern end of Ottawa’s central business district, and it has become the main centre for the delivery of all postal services for the downtown core.
Postal Station B is a very good example of the Classical and Château styles used in civic buildings during the 1930s. The building’s roof was imposed by a political preference for large copper roofs, often in the Château Style, and its smooth stone face and minimal decoration reflect the simplified character of classicism during the early 20th century. Its very good functional quality is shown in the excellent craftsmanship and materials used in the exterior construction, as well as the rich treatment of the public spaces within. The building remains one of the best examples of the architect W.E. Noffke’s work.
Postal Station B is a significant and creative work of architecture that makes an important contribution to the character of Confederation Square and the Sparks Street Mall. The unchanged integrity of the historical relationship between the building and its surrounding urban landscape helps to establish the present character of the area. As the oldest federal building in Ottawa devoted to local use and as part of Confederation Square National Historic Site of Canada, it is a very familiar landmark in the city and across Canada.
Sources: Postal Station B, 47-59 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 85-014; Postal Station B, 47-59 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement, 85-014.
The character-defining elements of Postal Station B should be respected.
Its very good aesthetic and functional design, and excellent craftsmanship and materials, for example: its eight-storey steel-frame massing, sheathed in Queenston limestone on a black granite base; the steeply-pitched copper roof pierced with dormers in the Château style; the smooth stone facing with minimal decoration; the extensive classical detailing throughout its carvings, including a Royal coat of arms above the main entrance, provincial coats of arms on its surrounds, and the lions at each of the entrances; the Beaux-Arts elements, including colonnades, rusticated stone front, and the traditional tripartite division of the elevation into base, piano nobile, and entablature; the rich treatment of the public spaces within.
The manner in which Postal Station B establishes the present character of its urban setting and is an architectural and heritage landmark, as evidenced by: its location within Confederation Square National Historic Site of Canada and at the eastern entrance of Sparks Street Mall; its design, function and location, which makes it a very familiar landmark in Ottawa for residents and tourists.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
Postal Station B, Ottawa, was built in 1938-39 to designs by W.E. Noffke, architect, of Ottawa. In 1984, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board identified this along with the other buildings around Confederation Square as of national historical and architectural importance. The building belongs to Public Works Canada. See FHBRO Building Report 85-14.
Reason for Designation
In June, 1986, Postal Station B was designated Classified because it is a significant and creative work of architecture and because it makes an important contribution to the character of Confederation Square and the Sparks Street Mall.
In Postal Station B, W.E. Noffke, a distinguished Ottawa architect of the period, found an elegant solution to a demanding symbolic program. The government of the day recognized this building as its major contribution to the enclosure of the newly-created Confederation Square. Its cornice heights and, to a degree, its bay rhythms were established by the adjoining Langevin Block; the roof was imposed by a political preference for the Chateau Style, or at least for large copper roofs. Noffke integrated these givens in a composition of Classical regularity with the honed-down surface treatment typical of the Art Deco sensibility. The building is an entirely convincing example of good architectural manners.
Postal Station B was intended to be the springing of a consistent façade to Elgin Street south to Laurier Avenue. The Lord Elgin Hotel is a direct response to this aim; the Lorne Building and the British High Commission are less direct responses to the same intention. Postal Station B also works well as the gateway to the Sparks Street Mall.
Character Defining Elements
The whole of the visible façades and roofs of the building, including windows and doors, architectural metals and fittings, and, of course, the lions which guard its doors, are essential to its heritage character. It is unlikely that any of these elements can be altered without seriously diminishing the whole.
The public interiors of the building were originally finished with a suitable richness of material and ornament. The qualities of this space have been eroded over the years by successive small changes. It would be appropriate for this process now to reverse itself.
The architectural and social values of this building would be best preserved if it were to remain a post office.
For further guidance, please refer to the FHBRO Code of Practice.