Nestled in the heart of Cambridge, Ontario, the former Galt Post Office is a testament to the city’s rich architectural heritage. Constructed between 1884 and 1887, it is a fine example of the High Victorian architectural style. We’ll delve into the fascinating history of the former Galt Post Office, its architectural influences, and its role in preserving Cambridge’s past history.
Thomas Fuller: The Architect Behind the Old Post Office
Born in Bath, England, in 1823, Thomas Fuller apprenticed under James Wilson, an English architect known for designing schools. Fuller received his first commission in Antigua in 1845. He designed various ecclesiastical buildings in the Caribbean before returning to England two years later. He then partnered with William Bruce Gingell and James Wilson, working on institutional structures.
Fuller immigrated to Toronto in 1857 and joined the existing partnership of Robert C. Messer and Chilion Jones, civil engineers. In 1859, Fuller and Jones won a design competition for the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Fuller’s High Victorian architectural style, for which he is renowned in Canada, emerged around this time.
In October 1881, Fuller became the Chief Architect of the Dominion of Canada following Thomas Seaton Scott’s retirement. During his time as chief architect, Fuller designed around 140 federal structures, including the Langevin Block, post offices, customs houses, hospitals, prisons, and courthouses throughout Canada, creating a consistent Dominion image.
The Former Galt Post Office: A Historical Landmark
In the mid-1880s, Galt (now part of Cambridge) was a prosperous manufacturing center. The construction of a monumental federal building in Galt highlights the city’s importance. The former Galt Post Office was housed the city’s post office, as well as offices for the Customs, Internal Revenue, and Weights and Measures departments, and an examining warehouse.
Architectural Styles and Influences
The Former Galt Post Office is a masterful blend of architectural styles. It primarily features French and Italian influences based on the popular 19th-century Italianate style. The building also incorporates elements of High Victorian Gothic and Second Empire styles.
Exterior Features and Stonework
Use of Local Granite and Limestone
The Old Post Office showcases its connection to the region through the use of local granite and limestone in its construction. The building features rock-faced ashlar walls in blue granite sourced from the region and smooth ashlar trim and banding in Guelph limestone. The choice of local materials highlights the building’s ties to the area and emphasizes the quality and availability of these resources.
Elaborate Exterior Elements
The exterior of the Old Post Office is a testament to the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into its construction. The building features a mansard roof, deeply recessed windows, round-topped arches, an entrance porch with a tessellated marble floor, a square tower and an “apse-like” projection, gable bossage, a massive chimney stack, a slate roof, intricate flower designs carved in stone, a decorative iron grille, and coloured glass windows. Each of these elements contributes to the overall visual appeal of the building and showcases the skill and artistry involved in its creation.
Skillful Blending of Styles and Materials
The Old Post Office is an exceptional example of the skillful blending of architectural styles and materials. Combining the High Victorian Gothic and Second Empire styles, the building presents a harmonious and distinctive composition. This is further enhanced by carefully selecting and combining materials, such as blue granite and Guelph limestone, which create a visually striking and engaging exterior.
Importance of Craftsmanship in the Building’s Construction
The Old Post Office is a testament to the importance of craftsmanship in architecture. It is a reminder of the rich history of architectural talent in Cambridge and the surrounding region.
Heritage Recognition and Preservation
Ontario Heritage Act Designation
In 1982, the Old Post Office was designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act by the City of Cambridge. This designation acknowledges the building’s historical and architectural significance and its role as a prominent local landmark.
National Historic Site Designation
The Old Post Office was recognized as a National Historic Site in 1982. This designation highlights the building’s importance as an example of a small urban post office designed by Thomas Fuller and its excellent design and masterful stonework.
Listing on the Canadian Register of Historic Places
In 2009, the Old Post Office was listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. This recognition further emphasizes the building’s importance as a vital part of Canada’s architectural heritage and its significance in the history of Cambridge and the nation as a whole.
Efforts to Maintain and Conserve the Building
Over the years, various efforts have been made to maintain and conserve the Old Post Office. The creation of a Conservation Master Plan by the City of Cambridge and the adherence to the ‘Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada’ have played a crucial role in ensuring the preservation and restoration of the building. These efforts help to safeguard the Old Post Office’s architectural and historical significance for future generations.
The Old Post Office Today
Current Use of the Building
Today, the Old Post Office has been repurposed as a vibrant community hub, housing the Idea Exchange, a public library, and a creative space. This adaptive reuse of the building allows it to continue to serve the community while preserving its architectural and historical significance.
Importance to the Community
The Old Post Office holds a special place in the hearts of the residents of Cambridge, as it represents an integral part of the city’s history and a vital and thriving space for creativity, learning, and community engagement. Its transformation into a modern facility demonstrates the commitment of the city to preserve its heritage while adapting to the changing needs of its citizens.
Role in Promoting Architectural Heritage and Tourism in Cambridge
The Old Post Office plays a significant role in promoting architectural heritage and tourism in Cambridge. As a well-preserved example of Thomas Fuller’s work and a testament to the city’s rich architectural history, the building attracts visitors from near and far who are interested in learning more about Canada’s architectural past. Its presence in the heart of the city also serves as a constant reminder to residents and visitors alike of the importance of preserving and celebrating the unique architectural heritage of Cambridge and the nation as a whole.
A Timeless Treasure: The Former Galt Post Office
The Former Galt Post Office is not just an architectural gem; it is an embodiment of the rich history of Cambridge, Ontario. By exploring its storied past and the intricate design that makes this building unique, we can appreciate the role it plays in preserving the city’s heritage. Today, the Old Post Office continues to stand as a proud testament to the skilled craftsmanship of Thomas Fuller and the vibrant history of Cambridge, inviting visitors and locals alike to marvel at its timeless beauty.
Galt Post Office and Grand River
Photo Source: City of Cambridge
Historic Places Canada
City of Cambridge: Conservation Master Plan
Cambridge Idea Exchange on Flickr