Seriously, is this the best that our architectural minds can conjure up? Take a beautiful mid-century building on a prime downtown Vancouver location and use it as a “podium” for three glass towers and call it The Post? After reading John Mackie’s story in the Vancouver Sun today, I was inspired to pull together a short history of the Canada Post Office.
McCarter & Nairne—the same architects who designed the Marine Building (and had an office there for 50 years), also designed the old post office building on West Georgia between 1953 and 1958).
Canada Post building in 1981, photo courtesy Vancouver Archives 779-E12.02
The firm’s architectural range was stunning and their buildings include Spencer’s Department Store (now SFU), the Seaforth Armoury and the YMCA (on different ends of Burrard), the Grandview Substation on 1st Avenue, the Live Stock building at the PNE, the Patricia Hotel, and the now defunct Georgia Medical-Dental building.
The Canada Post plant, which was essentially a five-storey machine covering an entire city block, was the largest welded steel structure in the world, capped with a rooftop helipad.
Up until a couple of years ago there was a 2,400-foot long tunnel that connected the post office to the CPR train station (now Waterfront Station). The tunnel was outfitted with two conveyor belts to move the mail, and was maintained by engineers on bikes. It only lasted five years (1958 to 1963) after which mail stopped arriving by train and was transported by truck.
The change rendered the tunnel obsolete, but Fred Danells, a retired postal clerk and now president of Vancouver Heritage Club, says the tunnel was often rented out for movie shoots and he remembers some rocking Halloween parties down there. The last one just a few years ago, before the tunnel was filled in after the BC Investment Management Corporation bought the building in 2013.
There’s some great art that’s still there, but may not be for long.
In the mid-1950s Paul Huba cut a 16-foot high Postman into the red granite above the cornerstone adjacent to the Homer Street entrance. And, in the lobby there is a mural by Orville Fisher depicting the evolution of mail delivery and showing Mercury, the winged messenger of Roman mythology.
Fred says Canada Post employees created a huge postage stamp mural of the Canadian flag on the roof in the late 1980s. It was later made into an actual postage stamp.
In March, developers revealed plans that showed a 19-storey office tower with 850 rental and condo units. This latest rendition, according to the Vancouver Sun story, has three glass-faced towers added to the top of the building, including a 17-storey office tower and two residential towers of 18 and 20 storeys. This would be 51 fewer units then the previous plan and a lot more glass.
There is an open house about the project at the Hotel Vancouver 5:00 p.m. on November 22 at the Hotel Vancouver with he developer and members of the City of Vancouver in attendance.
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