As the Chapleau Post Office building was nearing completion in 1950, the Chapleau Post predicted it would be the "show place" of the town, adding that "it will be by far the most beautiful and modern building" in the community.
"The building is equipped with every modern convenience both for beauty and practicability," the newspaper reported.
And so it was, located downtown, at the intersection of Birch and Lorne streets, it became a major focal point of community life on a daily basis, and has been since it was opened. Originally approved before the start of World War II when the basement was started, construction was halted because of the war, and resumed in 1949.
On May 5, 1949, the Chapleau Post reported that a $165,000 contract had been let to the firm of Hill, Clark, Francis and that construction should begin within a few weeks.
The newspaper contacted Ovide Cote, the secretary-treasurer of the Chapleau Liberal Association who said the organization had received nothing official but "he had heard unofficially that the contract had been let and he considered the report to be accurate."
The department of Indian Affairs office would be located on the second floor. An apartment for the custodian was also on the second floor.
The Post article went on to outline some of the main features of the new building which included mention that given the building's southern exposure "large windows reach to the ceiling making the room bright without the use of artificial lighting."
"An up-to-the-minute feature of the new building is the inside loading ramp. Mail trucks can back right into the receiving room. This will be a grand feature in the winter months or during inclement weather."
"Entering the building from the Birch Street entrance, a large lobby will contain the boxes of the businesses and individuals who now occupy them in the present post office. A feature of convenience in this lobby is that it is not necessary to go into the main post office to get mail out of the boxes.
"Large double doors lead from the lobby into the main post office and these can be locked when the post office closes, leaving the lobby open for the convenience of box holders."
Looking back at the Chapleau Post detailed report to its readers some sixty odd years later, it struck me how exciting it was in 1949-50 that Chapleau was getting a new post office. I was eight years old as it was being built.
Fast forward now to an excellent article with drawings by Ian Macdonald, professor emeritus and retired head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba. Ian lived in Chapleau and attended Chapleau Public and Chapleau High schools.
Ian noted that "the Chapleau Federal Building was designated a recognized heritage building for its architectural and environmental significance.
"It is an early and particularly example of design inspired by International style and utilized by the Department of Public Works in the construction of numerous small federal buildings across the country after World War II."
Ian added that "the philosophy of the International style was the honest expression of structure, function and materials, as well as the elimination of superficial ornament. The building is a focal point of local activity, as well as a physical landmark due to its prominent location at the main business intersection. It is also one of only a few early structures to have survived in Chapleau."
It was designated in 1990 as a recognized federal heritage building by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office. I highly recommend that you visit the Chapleau Public Library web site and click on 'Post Office by R. Ian Macdonald' for all the complete details about this major historic site in Chapleau . My email is email@example.com
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