Some notes on architectural aspects of the Post Office and Customs House
The handsome original masonry building, which dates from 1900, has been slightly compromised by an unremarkable addition reflecting the institutional design criteria of the 1950's.
The Post Office is well situated in the downtown core and is currently an important destination for residents as all mail is picked up from boxes in the building.
The Post Office is adjacent to the right of way to Benson Park. This right of way flanks the west side of the Post Office and links Main Street to the Park to the north down a narrow flight of stairs.
- The first, second, third and basement levels were viewed on two occasions accompanied by Mr. Lawrence Trainor of Rogers and Trainor, Kingston, realtors; and also accompanied by the Mayor and Planning Commissioner of Prince Edward County, accompanied by municipal planning staff
- The flooring and structural systems appear to be sound and capable of bearing the loads anticipated for the ACS;
- The exterior of the building appears to be sound as well as the interior although some minor water damage was observed under the second floor windows on the north wall and on the east wall between the second and third floors of the stairwell;
- The roof(s) were not visited and should be investigated thoroughly when weather permits. Some repair/patchwork can be anticipated;
- Decorative wood knees under the eaves need maintenance and several need replacement;
- Copper eavestroughing and downspouts also require investigation;
- Floor to ceiling heights are more than adequate on all floor levels for ACS purposes;
- The building HVAC systems are sound although adjustments / replacements / upgrades will be required to accommodate the environmentally specific criteria for the ACS collections;
- The glazing systems appear to be in sound conditions;
- There is only one stair connecting the first, second and third floors. Therefore, additional stair exiting will be required to provide the Life Safety exiting units for the proposed occupancies;
- There is no elevator;
- There is a loading dock at the rear (north end) of the building off the right of way to the west of the building.
- This building and the contained gross square footage of approximately 13,800 square feet is well suited to accommodate the needs of the ACS and attendant functions;
- The physical plant and HVAC systems provide a good base for renovation, retrofitting and alterations to readily accommodate the ACS and related adjuncts;
- Consideration must be given to improving the street presence and "curb appeal" of the building. It is currently screened from the street by tall evergreens and imposing planters. These should be removed and a welcoming landscaped forecourt incorporated;
- The building should be enhanced by a small addition that will screen the 1950's addition. The design, detailing and material selections for the addition should be informed by the aesthetics of the original 1900 building;
- Having stated that the character of the addition should relate to the aesthetics of the original, it is strongly suggested that a "storefront" be incorporated to create an attractive presence to the street displaying the "essence" of the ACS activities, drawing in the passer by;
- The "storefront" would be incorporated in an appropriate, contextual design;
- An elevator, new stair, new entry area and new washrooms will be required to service the building and meet required Code and Life Safety Standards;
- All design decisions will be informed to ensure barrier free access throughout the gallery and public areas;
- The adjacent right of way should be redesigned to provide a "pedestrian mall" linking the main street, ACS facility and the park to the north. An improved flight of well scaled steps (also a ramp) should be incorporated in this link;
- Adaptive re-use of the Post Office building for the purposes of the ACS and its components can be an important catalyst for the renewed interest in the beautification of the downtown core of Picton;
- This impact would be reinforced by integration with the proposals being considered for improvements to the adjacent park and the Benson House;
- Success of the ACS project can, however, stand on its own merits and is not dependent on improvements to the park and the Benson House;
- Any opportunity to acquire the Post Office should include a reasonable period to conduct a more thorough investigation of the building.
Document prepared from a submission by Allan Rae, B.Arch., MOAA, MRAIC, ARIBA