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John D. Higinbotham Building


Other Names:
The Federal Building
The Post Office

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The John D. Higinbotham Building, also commonly known as The Federal Building or Post Office is a Second Empire/Beaux-Arts monument that was constructed in 1912-13 to the designs of Chief Architect David Ewart. The four storey building has a mansard roof and five-storey domed clock tower. It is located on the corner of two busy streets in downtown Lethbridge and occupies nine city lots. A modern addition was added in 1958.

Heritage Value
The building is significant due to its historical significance, classically inspired architecture and status as a civic landmark.

Historically, the building represents the importance given to establishing a federal presence at the turn of the century to communities across Canada, particularly within the newly created provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Locally, it provided a highly visible boost to the urban development of downtown Lethbridge. The building served as the federal building and housed many federal functions including the Post Office, Customs and Excise, Immigration, Revenue and Employment offices, and the Dominion Land and Crown Timber office. All of these functions made the building and its operations essential to the people of Lethbridge and area.

Specific to its function as a Post Office, it is significant due to its association with the city of Lethbridge’s early development of postal services. In the early days of Lethbridge, H. Greenwood, the accountant at the Galt Mine, handled the local mail. As the community grew, so did the postal services, and more formalized service was later offered through the J.D Higinbotham Drug Store. J.D Higginbotham would become the assistant postmaster, then postmaster serving between 1886 and 1910. As the city of Lethbridge continued to grow, so did citizens’ demand for services. In 1912 construction began on the new four-storey federal building that was to house the Post Office, customs operations and other associated government operations.

Architecturally, the building is one of the finer examples of Second Empire/Beaux-Arts principles of design which establish a strong, yet dignified, urban presence. The building was designed by architect David Ewart and was constructed by Smith Brothers Contractors with the local contractors the Nairn Brothers. The two principal facades, which show considerable Renaissance influence in their detailing, are anchored by the corner clock tower. The north and west exterior walls are faced with Manitoba Tyndall Stone which is imbedded with thousands of visible petrified marine fossils. The towers clock was custom ordered from W.F Evans & Sons, in England, and was placed in 1916. The four 190 centimeter clock faces are made of Belgian and Canadian stained glass. The foyer interior floors are primarily terrazzo with marble wainscoting.

In 1958 a modern addition was added on the east and south of the building and was designed to be austere to distinguish it from the more ornate original design. The entire building has undergone extensive interior renovations with new modern windows and other major upgrades.

The Post Office is also significant because of its status as a civic landmark. The height, architectural detail and unique character of the domed clock tower make this one of the more prominent buildings in downtown Lethbridge, establish it as a local landmark for the people of Lethbridge. In 1972 the Federal Government considered demolishing a section of the building, but the ensuing public outcry prompted them to reconsider.

Character-Defining Elements
The character defining elements as expressed in the form, massing, and materials of the 1912 four-storey Post Office, such as:

Exterior Elements
• The Beaux-Arts stone façade (sandstone);
• The seven-bay façade facing 4th Avenue and the five-bay façade facing 7th Street - stylistically identical, with projecting pavilions flanking the pilastered bays. The end pavilions are topped by attic level scroll pediments, and the corner pavilion by the clock tower;
• Dentiled cornice and roof level balustrades;
• The copper mansard roof;
• The clock tower on the corner of front façade with copper dome;
• The 1913 raised inscription at the base of the tower and associated classical detailing near the top of the tower;
• Rusticated base with arched windows, rusticated voussoirs and keystones;
• Ionic pilasters on upper floors;
• Dormers alternating in rounded and triangular pediments;
• Sculptural elements in each end bay and corner tower;

Interior Elements
• Marble wainscoting, window stools and millwork facing;
• Terrazzo floor and integrated base;
• Coffered ceilings;
• Stair railings


Street Address: 706 - 4 Avenue South
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Lots 24 to 35, Block 43, Plan 4353S
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
24 to 35

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.694080 -112.836438 GPS NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
5506268 367558 GPS NAD83


Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2015/08/04

Historical Information

Built: 1912_1913
Period of Significance: 1913_2015
Historic Function(s): Government : Post Office
Current Function(s): Government : Post Office
Architect: David Ewart

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0397
Designation File:
Related Listing(s): 4665-1377
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link:
Data Source: Planning & Development Services City Hall, 910 - 4 Avenue South Lethbridge, AB, T1J0P6
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