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Key Number: HS 9958
Site Name: Lethbridge Federal Building
Other Names: J. D. Higinbotham Building
John D. Higinbotham Building
Old Post Office
Site Type: 1206 - Communications: Post Office


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
9 21 4

Address: 704-706 - 4 Avenue S
Number: 4-6
Street: 7 S
Avenue: 4 S
Town: Lethbridge
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape: Square
Storeys: Storeys: 3 1/2
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Brick
Superstructure Cover: Concrete: Block Concrete: Plain Precast Panel
Roof Structure: Mansard 4 Sides
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Massing of Units: Single Detached
Massing of Units: Attached, Irregular
Wings: Rear and Either Side
Wings: Irregular
Number of Bays - Facade: First or Ground Floor, 8 Bays
Number of Bays - Facade: Second Floor, 8 Bays
Number of Bays - Facade: Third Floor, 8 Bays
Wall Design and Detail: Plain Panel
Wall Design and Detail: Pier or Pilaster
Wall Design and Detail: Ionic Capital
Wall Design and Detail: String or Belt Course
Wall Design and Detail: Plinth
Wall Design and Detail: Entablature
Wall Design and Detail: Plain Parapet
Wall Design and Detail: Decorated Parapet
Wall Design and Detail: Carving
Wall Design and Detail: Inscription or Date Stone
Wall Design and Detail: Decorative Brick
Plain Eaves
Roof Trim - Verges: Not Applicable
Roof Trim - Verges: Pediment
Towers, Steeples and Domes: Tower
Towers, Steeples and Domes Location-Side to Side: Side Right
Towers, Steeples and Domes Location-Front to Rear: Front
Dormer Type: Gable, Pediment
Dormer Type: Segmental
Chimney Location - Side to Side: None
Chimney Location - Front to Rear: None
Chimney Stack Material: None
Chimney Stack Massing: None
Roof Trim - Special Features: Monumental Pediment
Roof Trim - Special Features: Other
Window - Structural Opening Shape: Semi-Elliptical
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Voussoirs
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Other
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Other
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Material: Stone
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Material: Concrete
Window - Sill Type: Plain Lug Sill
Window - Sill Type: Moulded Lug Sill
Window - Sill Material: Stone
Window - Sill Material: Concrete
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Plain
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Flat Transom, Single Light
Window - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Window - Number of Sashes: Two, Double Hung
Window - Opening Mechanism: Single or Double Hung
Window - Special Types: None
Window - Special Types: Half-Round
Window - Special Types: Semi-Elliptical
Main Entrance - Location: 2 or More (Facade)
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Flat
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Segmental
Main Entrance - Structural Opening Shape: Semi-Elliptical
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Plain Flat
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Other
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Sides: Other
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening Material: Brick
Main Entrance - Trim Outside Structural Opening Material: Concrete
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Plain
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Flat Transom, Single Light
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Head: Shaped Transom, Single Light
Main Entrance - Trim Within Structural Opening - Sides: Plain
Main Entrance - Number of Leaves: 2
Main Entrance - Number of Panels Per Leaf: 1
Main Entrance - Leaves - Special Feature: Glass
Main Stairs - Location and Design: None
Main Stairs - Direction: None
Main Porch - Type: Recess
Main Porch - Type: Closed Porch
Main Porch - Special Features: None
Main Porch - Material: Brick
Main Porch - Height: First Storey
Exterior: Segmental and gable dormers, rusticated ground storey. Corner tower Ionic pilasters. Materials for building from Canadian General Supply Company.
Older monumental style structure between two newer buildings.
Interior: N/A
Environment: 7 Street and 4 Avenue south Downtown location. Fronts 4 Avenue on South side. Across street, East of Marquis Hotel. Central business district. Commercial core
Condition: Structure: Good Repair: Good Good (2004)
Alterations: Apparent Alterations and/or Additions: Window Apparent Alterations and/or Additions: Door Apparent Alterations and/or Additions: Other Site: Original Additions in back.


Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
Construction Ended
Usage: Usage Date:
Communications: Post Office
Governmental: Office or Adminsitration Building
Owner: Owner Date:

Architect: Smith Bros. & Wilson
Builder: Navin Brothers
Craftsman: David E. Jones, Winnipeg - Sculptor
History: 1912 September 14 contract
  Historical Background
Lethbridge was incorporated as a town in 1891, its initial growth stimulated by the development of coal mining along the banks of the Oldman River. After the turn of the century, irrigation projects and the development of dryland farming techniques allowed the area to be farmed more productively and contributed to Lethbridge's growing economic base. Lethbridge developed rapidly as an agricultural service centre, achieving city status in 1906, and continued its strong growth through 1912, a signal date for the new city. In the course of these forward-looking years, the citizens of Lethbridge hosted the 7th International Dry Farming Congress, constructed an electric street railway, opened the new irrigation-fed Henderson Lake, built new exhibition grounds featuring a sizeable grandstand and substantial pavilion, constructed a power plant, opened a civic golf course, and constructed many new commercial structures.
The Structure
It was in this year that a contract was signed for the construction of a four-storey federal building to house a post office, customs operations and various smaller government agencies. Plans for the building were designed by Public Works architects under the supervision of David Ewart. David E. Jones of Winnipeg was responsible for the execution of the building's architectural sculpture.
With its prominent clock tower, the Lethbridge Federal Building is the tallest and most ornate Public Works Canada heritage building in Alberta. Of reinforced concrete structure, the building's main facade is cut stone rusticated on the ground storey and backed by brick. Ground-storey windows and entrances are semi-elliptical with the surround-head arches radiating voussoirs. The copper mansard roof features eight dormers with alternating rounded and triangular pediments. These are connected by a decorated parapet, which overlies a cornice supported by ionic pillasters.
The clock tower, topped by a copper dome, houses a bell manufactured in England and accommodates four 190 cm diameter clock faces of Canadian and Belgian stained glass. Although the south and east elevations of the building are obscured by extensive additions, the building still retains the original appearance of the main facade. The additions are so different in character that the original structure has managed to maintain a separate identity. Over the years, a few alterations have been made to the building exterior. A small vestibule was added to the northwest entrance which bisects the original entranceway surround, but care was taken to match the original stonework and style. In 1956, the original northeast entrance was modified to form a window. The stone used does not quite match the colour of the original, but the alteration was successful.
On the west elevation the original mail depository was shifted, and in contrast to the original arrangement employng stone steps, a set of metal stairs was tacked onto the building. These are most incongruous with the building's style.
Visually, the exterior of the building is in very good condition. However, two matters require attention. Parts of the light fixtures at the northwest entrance are missing and should be replaced with fixtures which complement the building's architectural style. Second, air conditioning units which have been installed in the second-storey windows have been crudely framed with unstained plywood.
Local Context
The Lethbridge Federal Building is located at the intersection of Seventh Street South and Fourth Avenue South (formerly Glyn Street and Dufferin Street), one of the three most important downtown intersections. The Federal Building is the tallest structure at this corner, and its presence is reinforced by the 1923 Marquis Hotel located across Seventh Street, and by several other downtown buildings which predate World War I.
Since the completion of the Federal Building, the centre of commercial activity has slowly circled around it, and it continues to occupy a central and prestigious location today. To the east of the Federal Building along Fourth Avenue South is the civic centre area with its numerous institutional structures. To the west are Eaton's, Woolworth's, and the Lethbridge Centre Mall. The streetscape profile descends into residences two blocks south of the building. One block to the north is Galt Park with nearby shops and older hotels. The buildings in the immediate vicinity are generally in good repair. The streetscape has maintained a fairly low profile due partly to an anti-highrise sentiment in the city. Thus, in spite of moderate redevelopment which is occurring in the area (including the old Bank of Commerce building north across Fourth Avenue), the Federal Building with its tall clock tower is likely to continue dominating the streetscape. A municipal parking lot is being considered for the vicinity of the building, and would increase the pedestrian traffic past the building.
This part of the downtown is healthy economically. The pleasant human-scale streetscape is enhanced by the absence of projecting signs due to a municipal by-law restricting their use. Planters of trees have been installed along the streets.
Few buildings in the downtown are taller than the federal building; thus, the clock tower is prominent on the skyline from several points outside the downtown area. The building has been a strong city landmark for many years. Of the major visual downtown landmarks (which include the Lodge Hotel, the Lethbridge Centre tower, Galt Park, and an Alberta Government Telephones microwave tower), the Federal Building has the highest heritage value and is the longest standing of the structures. Of the many large structures started in Lethbridge in 1912, it is one of the few which remain standing.
Evidence of the building's landmark value is abundant. A painted mural in the Marquis Hotel depicts four scenes from Lethbridge, one of which is the clock tower. Traffic signs direct visitors to the Post Office, which is frequently used as a reference when citizens give directions. In 1972, the Federal government considered demolishing the original portion of the Federal Building, leaving the 1958 addition intact. More than seven articles were printed in the Lethbridge Herald concerning the fate of the building, and a letter-writing campaign was launched by the residents.
City Council favoured the retention of the structure, and the Federal Government ultimately decided to maintain their operations in the building. Residents continue to feel strong identification with the Post Office, one of the few remaining examples of Beaux Arts - influenced architecture in the city.
The Lethbridge Federal Building is an important visual landmark and has been used daily by the public since it opened. It is one of the city's grandest structures, and its pleasing facade makes a very positive contribution to the downtown. The building is the best remaining post office from this period in Alberta, and is one of the most interesting post offices of heritage value in the Western Region.
The Government of Canada is presently finalizing plans for a major renovation of the building.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2003/07/16


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-1377
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