Daily Archives: March 31, 2011

Stonewall Post Office

Stonewall Post Office, Centre Avenue & Main Street, Stonewall, MB

              Modest in size, exemplary in design and gargantun in provenance, Stonewall Post Office is among my  favourite Manitoba heritage buildings.  Francis Conroy Sullivan (1882–1929), one of Canada’s pioneer practitioners of the Prairie School style, designed the building. His inspiration was Frank Lloyd Wright (1869–1959), the renowned Chicago architect and originator of the Prairie School which achieved widespread acceptance from 1900–1914. Today, it stands as Manitoba’s foremost example of Prairie School architecture and only known surviving example of Prairie School institutional architecture in the province. 

         The Dominion of Canada Public Works Department chose a prominent corner in Stonewall’s streetscape and built this little beauty using local Stonewall limestone in 1914-15. It was used as the community’s post office until 1978.

        Prairie School characteristics abound here. Notice the combination of rough and smooth limestone all around the building and the interplay between them. The low boxy massing with flat roof uses powerful horizontal lines in several ways to accentuate the prairie horizon: four belt courses of smooth limestone, one at the cornice, two below and one just above the low foundation, the heavy modillions along the cornice and the broken limestone lintels under the windows. 

     Typically the facade is balanced and symmetrical with modest yet effective geometric details. The wide stairs are flanked by platforms and shallow round planters. Though small in size, the building has an impressive presence as you ascend the front stairs. The windows all around are narrow and separated by smooth limestone, which is also used on the quoins. All openings are deeply recessed.   

                                                                                                                                                     The The side view of the place is an exhilerating display of balance and symmetry with windows of various widths, horizontal banding and the various stone textures. Interesting treatment of the basement windows.

 The rear of the building carries on the geometric detailing and interplay of limestone textures to stunning effect.

         What is it about this place that turns my crank? For me, the best architecture is a brilliant conversation between space and place. I love the sympathy Stonewall Post Office displays toward the prairie environment honouring the horizon with great intentionality, the sensual textures of its natural stone cut from the local soil, its prominence and how comfortable the building looks, settled into the streetscape.

        Stonewall Post Office bears federal and provincial heritage designation.

        “Architects may come and architects may go and never change your point of view.” Watch a video featuring pictures of Frank Lloyd Wright creations while Simon & Garfunkel sing So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Filed under Heritage Buildings, PRAIRIES

Itinerary Item

 Reid Dickie

  10:23 am

Prince Philip presents gold certificates to achievers assembled in clusters.

   “What did you achieve?” the woman standing next to me asks. She smells of expensive perfume and gin. Her wild green eyes are suspicious of my turban.

    “I delivered food to starving Ugandan children. And you?”

    She stares at me. Her nostrils flare wide, her mouth opens to speak but she says nothing. Huffily she turns away as I notice a tiny patch of bright green leaves sprout in the hair on her left temple.

“What did you achieve?” she quizzes the short man on metal crutches on her other side.

“I started a public awareness campaign that led to the provincial government recognizing the special needs of disabled employees. And you?”

Turning away, a look of disgust traces across her lips as a short green stem pokes out of the collar of her green dress.

She demonstrates her distaste for the other achievers in her cluster by exuding a slightly rotted vegetable smell. I take a step away from her, as do others.

When the Prince hands her the gold certificate she is visibly shaken and he has to grasp her arm to steady her. At his touch, she recovers instantly, becoming gracious and humble.

“What did you achieve?” the old prince asks.

“I’m the missing link between the plant and animal kingdoms,” she says.

“How nice for you, dear.” The Prince smiles and moves on.

A tiny red rose blossoms behind her ear.

Hear me read it on video.

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Filed under Fiction