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Lethbridge Federal Building

Lethbridge

Other Names:
John D. Higinbotham Building
Lethbridge Post Office

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Lethbridge Federal Building is a four-storey Beaux-Arts building situated in Lethbridge’s downtown core. The structure has stylistically identical facades facing 4th Avenue and 7th Street, with pilastered central bays flanked by projecting pavilions, rusticated stonework on the lowest storey, and smooth ashlar on the intermediate storeys. The end pavilions are capped with large, segmental-arched pediments, while the corner pavilion is anchored by a copper-domed clock tower. The building has a mansard roof with alternating triangular and arched pediments above rectangular windows, separated by carved balusters. A modern 1958 addition to the building’s east side is distinct from the original structure and not part of the designation.

Heritage Value
The Lethbridge Federal Building is significant as an excellent example of pre-World War One monumental federal architecture. It also strongly reflects the expectations of Lethbridge’s development into a major urban centre prior to World War One.
The Lethbridge Federal Building is architecturally significant as an excellent example of early twentieth-century monumental federal architecture. Built in 1912-13, the Lethbridge Federal Building was constructed during one of the most dynamic periods of public works construction in Canadian history (1900-14), when the federal government sought to establish a strong and visible presence in communities across the country. This was especially crucial in the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where monumental federal buildings served as a powerful symbol of Canadian authority and the transition from frontier settlement to modern, urban development. Post offices were the signature buildings of this program, and the Lethbridge Federal Building shares many features that were common among federal post offices in this period, including the corner-lot siting, the stylistically-identical dual facades, and the corner clock tower. The building’s Beaux Arts design with classical revival elements, such as rusticated stonework, alternating round and pedimented dormers on the upper level, and Ionic pilasters, convey a sense of stateliness, dignity and authority. The building thus met the functional need for improved postal facilities and expanded federal office space, but its design and construction clearly reflect the goals and priorities of federal public works architecture in the years leading up to World War One.
The building also reflects the expectations of Lethbridge’s development into a major urban centre prior to World War One. Lethbridge’s political and economic elite put significant pressure on the federal government to design a building worthy of the city’s growing importance as a commercial and railway centre. The scale of the Lethbridge Federal Building is larger than what was necessary for a city the size of Lethbridge, an architectural choice that reflected the federal government’s aspirations for the city’s continued growth into a major urban centre. The building immediately became a local landmark and a source of pride for the people of Lethbridge, who viewed the monumental structure as a clear acknowledgement of their city’s current importance and auspicious future. The city’s growth stalled in the 1920s, but the Lethbridge Federal Building stands as a powerful symbol of the tremendous prosperity and boundless confidence of the pre-World War One boom years in Alberta.

Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des 2336)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Lethbridge Federal Building include its:
- prominent siting on a corner lot in Lethbridge’s downtown business district;
- scale, form and massing (rectangular plan with four storeys and a six-storey clock tower);
- interior features, including coffered ceiling, marble wainscoting, baseboards and windowsills in the main floor post office hall; circular cast iron staircase from fourth floor to clock tower; wooden framework supporting the clock mechanism; and the clock mechanism;
- Tyndall Limestone throughout the exterior;
- rusticated or channeled stonework on the main floor;
- segmental-arched door and window openings on the ground floor, with ornamental volute keystones at each window;
- ashlar masonry on second and third floor facades;
- pilasters with Ionic capitals rising through the second and third storeys;
- balustrade at fourth-floor eave line;
- mansard roof of standing seam metal on the fourth floor, with gables having alternating gabled and arched roofs;
- carved stone ornamentation with large arches;
- date of construction carved into the stone at the fourth floor level of the clock tower, on the north and west facades;
- glass clock faces on the north, east, south and west sides of the clock tower, framed by Ionic pilasters supporting an open-based pediment above and a base with balustrade below;
- paired Ionic columns at northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest quadrants of the clock tower, between each clock face; and
- copper-sheathed ribbed dome on the clock tower, surmounted by a ball ornament.


Location



Street Address: 706 - 4 Avenue South
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Lots 24-27, Block 43, Plan 4353S
Contributing Resources: Building

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
4353S
43
24-27


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.694103 -112.838056 NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
367441 5506242

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2016/03/04

Historical Information

Built: 1912 - 1913
Significant Date(s) 1912 - 1916
Theme(s) Governing Canada : Government and Institutions
Historic Function(s):
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder:
Context:

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1377
Designation File: DES 2336
Related Listing(s): 4664-0397
Heritage Survey File: HS 9958
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen’s College, 8820 – 112 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2P8 (File: Des 2336)
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