Project: Public Safety Building II
Address: 266 Graham Avenue (Map)
Size: 826,389 sq ft
Architect: Blankstein, Russell and Associates
Status: In Process
Dominion Post Office, Portage Ave. 1908 -1958 (source)
By the 1940s Winnipeg had long outgrown the ca. 1908 Dominion Post Office building on Portage Avenue at Garry Street. In 1949 the federal government bought three large parcels of land off of Graham Avenue for a combination post office / government office tower. Architects Blankstein, Russell and Associates were awarded the contract for its design.
While the plans were being drawn up and the expropriation of the 18 remaining peices of land on the block, mostly homes, was underway, the feds put a moratorium on new public construction. They found themselves competing with a backlog of post-war private construction, everything from housing to new factories to replace those worn out from working over-capacity during the war. By taking public project out of the picture it lessened the competition for still scarce materials like steel, wiring and pipes.
April 15, 1955, Winnipeg Free Press
The design phase was completed in 1953. The 826,389 square foot structure took up an entire city block. The tower portion, meant to bring together dozens of government offices scattered around the city in rented property. It is ten stories tall and designed so that three more could be added, (they never were.) The four storey post office section took up most of the block.
In September 1953 the building permit for the excavation and foundation work was issued to Claydon Company. The permit for the structure was issued on May 19, 1955 to the Foundation Company. The delay was due to the size of the building - the city needed that long to examine the construction plans to ensure that they met code. At $9,500,000 it was the largest permit ever issued in the city.
In May 1956 Mathews Conveyor of Port Hope ON awarded $1.5m contract for mail handling equipment.
Opening day (Tribune Archives)
Tenants began moving into the building in summer 1957, the RCAF recruiting office and Civil Service Commission among the first to move. The post office itself moved throughout the Spring of 1958 and on June 2, 1958 the new facility opened to the public.
The final tab was $11.5 million, about $850,000 more than expected.
The ceremonial opening took place on Friday June 6, 1958 and was a mix of old and new. Postmaster General of Canada William Hamilton and Winnipeg Postmaster George Foord left Ross House, Winnipeg's first post office, in a 120 year-old former Wells Cargo coach owned by the Free Press. The Minister of Trade departed the airport by RCAF helicopter, landing on the helipad on the roof of the building. Both groups met at the front doors for the ribbon cutting.
The tower underwent major renovations between 1980 and 1985. This included replacing the windows and Tyndall stone facade with panelling. The post office hall shrank in size as Canada Post contracted out some of their retail postal operations.
In February 2008 Canada Post announced that they selected the Winnipeg airport as the site for their new, $50 m mail processing plant. The City of Winnipeg, who needed a new home for the Public Safety Building on Princess Street, negotiated with Canada Post and acquired the building for $30 million dollars. They will spend another $105 million to renovate it..
"A downtown location would allow us to increase our visible presence on the streets and in covered walkways and add to our ability to build relationships with merchants, workers and visitors to the downtown," Chief McCaskell told CBC.
My photo gallery of 266 Graham, including renos !
General Post Office Winnipeg Building Index
Police HQ price hits $193m Free Press (Jul 2012)
Renovation Costs Soar Free Press (Jul 2011)
City Gets Keys to Future Police Bldg Free Press (Dec 09)
City Staff Recommend Purchase City of Winnipeg (Nov 2009)
New Police Station Moves a Step Closer Free Press (Nov 2009)
Police Eye Canada Post Digs Free Press (Mar 2009)
Chief Wants Police Station in Downtown CBC (Dec 2008)