Description du lieu patrimonial
The building at 36-42 Bridge Street, commonly known as the Napanee Post Office, is situated at the southeast corner of the intersection between Bridge and John Streets in downtown Napanee. The two-and-a-half-storey building was constructed in 1887 to the designs of architect Thomas Fuller and incorporates architectural elements of both Richardson Romanesque and Victorian Eclecticism design.
The exterior of the building and select interior features, including elements of the stairways, doors, windows and clock tower, are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement, 1977. The property is also designated by the Town of Greater Napanee under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (Bylaw 75-0094).
Located at the intersection of John and Bridge Streets, the post office building is an important local landmark in downtown Napanee. It is the only sandstone building in an area marked by wide use of brick and limestone construction and the tall clock tower makes it a prominent feature of the town's skyline. Paired with the Town Hall (1852) and the other heritage buildings of the market square area, the Napanee Post Office significantly contributes to Napanee's historic town centre.
The Napanee Post Office is a notable work of Thomas Fuller, Canada's Chief Dominion Architect from 1881 to 1896 and a member of the firm that designed the Centre Block of Canada's Parliament Buildings. During his time as Chief Architect with the Federal Department of Public Works, Fuller oversaw the design of 78 public buildings, all of which were intended to increase the presence of government in small Canadian towns. Each building site, including that of the Napanee Post Office, was selected based upon its prominence, visibility, and location, ensuring that every new public building would become a focal point within its respective community. Buildings were typically two-and-a-half-storeys in height, five bays wide and very rarely exceeded the cost of $40,000. For this reason, it became national news when the construction costs of the Napanee Post Office amounted to $52,000; a rate 40 percent higher than the estimated cost of $37,000. In 1891, the circumstances of the building's high construction costs were subject to a Federal investigation which eventually contributed to the resignation of then Minister of Public Works, Sir Hector Langevin.
The Napanee Post Office is architecturally notable as a combination of Richardson Romanesque and Victorian Eclecticism design and as one of the best surviving works of architect Thomas Fuller. Its octagonal clock tower, decorative stone gables and rusticated red sandstone exterior are among the qualities that make the building memorable, but it is the 50-foot long ell extending to the east of the central block that makes it most unique. This ell was incorporated into plans for the post office and customs house complex to discreetly provide more internal space within the structure without compromising the scale and proportions of the traditional two-and-a-half-storey, five-bay design. Historically, the ground floor of the central block functioned as the post office and the operations of the customs house were limited to the space within the ell. The building continued to function as a post office until 1969 when a new facility was constructed. In 1986 the former post office was renovated for commercial and residential uses.
Source: Conservation Heritage Files, Ontario Heritage Trust
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Napanee Post Office include the:
- location amongst the other heritage structures of the market square area
- sandstone structure in an area characterized by brick and limestone construction
- dominance of the clock tower in the Napanee skyline
- design elements of Thomas Fuller, Canada's Chief Dominion Architect from 1881 to 1896
- existence as one of the 78 federal public buildings constructed during Fuller's term as Chief Dominion Architect
- tasteful blend of Richardson Romanesque and Victorian Eclecticism design
- unconventional building footprint with a main two-and-a-half-storey central block abutted by a single storey ell
- symmetry of the north and west elevations of the central block with the line of symmetry running through the octagonal tower at the northwest corner
- rough-cut, broken range ashlar sandstone of the exterior
- high foundation and heavy voussoirs surrounding all window and door openings
- masonry of the north and west façades, including the massive stone gables, the corbelling at the roofline, the stringcourse above the first storey windows and the projecting entrance bays at the ends opposite the tower
- entrances of the north and west façades, characterized by arched doorways, undersized columnettes and twin doors topped with corresponding quadrant transoms
- window openings on the north and west façades that are flat-arched on the first storey, segmented-arched on the second storey and round-arched in the stone gables at the roofline
- checkerboard pattern in the upper section of the first and second storey windows
- octagonal five-storey tower at the building's northwest corner that contains an arched entranceway and is topped by a cupola with a bell-cast roof
- pavilion roof of the central block clad in sheet metal and punctuated on the east side with a dormer containing three small flat-headed windows
- interior newel posts, balusters, handrail and paneling of the stairways
- architrave, paneled doors and tympanum of the interior doorways
- architrave of the window on the second floor landing
- clock mechanism and glazed clock faces