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.
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.
“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.