The Old Post Office and Customs Building at 340 Esplanade Avenue in downtown Ladysmith was designed by architect David Ewart and was built in 1910 by Parfitt Brothers, a Victoria based contracting company. It is now being used as an antique store.
340 Esplanade Avenue was added to the Ladysmith Community Heritage Register in 2014.
Here is a map showing the location of 340 Esplanade Avenue:
Here is a Google Street View image of 340 Esplanade Avenue:
Description of Historic Place
The old Post Office Building is a large, commanding brick building with Beaux-Arts detailing located on a prominent corner site on the main highway through Ladysmith. The historic place is confined to the building footprint.
Built in 1910, the Post Office Building is an excellent example of a standard plan post office erected during the era of David Ewart’s tenure as Chief Dominion Architect. It is distinguished by its solid brick construction, its symmetrical and refined appearance and its prominent cornice.
The Post Office Building is significant as the premier symbol of early federal government presence in Ladysmith. This expensive and sophisticated building projected federal power and authority and, at the same time, signaled Ladysmith’s status as a town of consequence, worthy of federal investment.
Considerably larger and more elaborate than any neighbouring buildings, the Post Office Building is a highly visible community landmark.
The character-defining elements of the Post Office Building include:
- – its standard plan and modest Beaux-Arts style, functional design and high level of craftsmanship including two-storey rectangular massing, symmetrical façade, flat roof, semi-circular windows on the lower floor, rectangular windows on the upper floor, separate entrances for the customs and post office functions and elaborate dentilled cornice that defines the roofline
- – its brick construction with dressed stone basement
- – the incised Customs and Post Office signs on the front façade and brass mail and newspaper slots on the north elevation that indicate the building’s original function – its siting on a prominent corner location on a major thoroughfare
340 Esplanade Avenue was built by Parfitt Brothers, a Victoria based contracting firm which built a lot of historically significant buildings in Victoria and other parts of Vancouver Island. We received the following from Glenn Paffitt, a descendant of the Parfitt Brothers and a historian of the firm:
“In 1908 the Federal Department of Public Works entered into a contract to construct a building in Ladysmith that would house the post office, customs office, and customs warehouse. The site chosen was the corner of Roberts and Esplanade, the customs of necessity being located close to port facilities, a location that annoyed some residents because a trip to the post office would mean more hill climbing.
Constructed by Parfitt Brothers of Victoria from plans provided by the Department of Public Works, the new Federal Building measured 60 feet by 34 feet and had a full basement and two storeys. It was built of pressed brick with a stone faced basement. At a cost of $45,000 it was possibly the most expensive building in Ladysmith at the time. The ground floor contained the post office and customs warehouse; upstairs was the customs office and an apartment for the agent. A brick safe room was included on both the ground and first floors. The steps were of cut stone, which came from Nanaimo, and a concrete sidewalk was laid on the street sides of the building. In the interior all the floors were of eastern maple, and the window and door casings of mahogany, as was the staircase. An indoor lavatory and water closet were provided for staff on the ground floor, and a combined lavatory and bath upstairs for the custom agent/caretaker.
Completed in 1908 [note: the construction date the LDHS has for this building is 1910 so we will do some research to confirm the construction date], the customs did not take residence until 1909, and the post office the following year. The Customs remained in this building until 1932, when the office was closed and moved to Nanaimo….”
(Source: Glenn Parfitt, from his History of the Parfitt Brothers. Used with permission)
We will add more historical information to this page in the near future.