Government of Canada Building – Brockville

34 Buell Street, Brockville, ON.

Having outgrown the Brockville Post Office (Thomas Fuller, 1886), the federal government commissioned a new facility as part of a national program that had been initiated in the 1950s.  Designed by Drever & Smith, the Government of Canada Building is noteworthy due to its specificity:  an adaptation of Modern Movement principles to a local context.

The Government of Canada Building in Brockville, along with those in Sarnia, Chatham, Kingston and elsewhere, represent the extension of the federal presence into Ontario.  The building is associated with the development and expansion of a national postal service along with the provision of programs by the federal government.  This series of buildings demonstrates the Department of Public Works’ use of the Modern Movement to express the dignity and monumentality of the federal government, and to communicate a modern and efficient public service.

The building was located in the centre of the town, just one block west of the courthouse and one block north of the commercial main street.  It sits diagonally opposite the historic Carnegie Library (B. Dillon, 1904), on a street characterized by a mix of houses, apartments and commercial uses.

The stepped massing of the 2,500 sq.m. building respected the existing 19th and early 20th century buildings.  The overall planning of the building was based on a structural grid.  The principal façade, facing Buell St., is characterized by a one-storey volume stretching the entire block.  Framed in limestone, with a slightly recessed foundation wall, clad in black granite, the volume appears to “hover” about the ground.  Its modern character is further enhanced by strong horizontality, balanced asymmetry, and rectilinear geometry.

The Government of Canada building exhibits a sophisticated composition:  its quarry-faced stone walls have a specificity with historic architecture in Brockville, and communicate the strength and solidity of the federal government; while its curtain wall assemblies, generous glazing, and well-lit, public interiors communicate modernity.

Federal armorial crests and cantilevered, marina-style, entrance canopies enhance the overall design.  The undulating profile of the canopies is a motif that subsequently appeared in both Brockville’s armorial crest and its city flag, referencing the St. Lawrence River.

Designed by architects Drever and Smith, the Government of Canada Building was constructed at a time when the federal government was commissioning private sector architects.  This building followed Drever & Smith’s Government of Canada Building in Kingston, completed five years earlier.  The Kingston-based firm had opened an office in Brockville in 1961.

The Government of Canada Building features both high quality materials and craftsmanship.  Despite lacking federal heritage designation, the building retains a high level of integrity.  Known today as the Brockville Post Office, the building is one of the best surviving examples of the Modern Movement in the area.