Vancouver General Post Office building
Set back from Georgia Street, the building’s primary public façade is set upon a colonnade of polished gray granite columns and features two massive cast aluminum Canadian crests, above.

Occupying an entire city block in Vancouver’s downtown core, between Georgia and Dunsmuir Streets and Homer and Hamilton Streets, the decommissioned General Post Office (or, Main Post Office) was designed by prominent architects of the day, John McCarter & George Nairne, and constructed between 1952-1958.

It’s the city’s biggest, boldest and perhaps most distinguished Midcentury Modern structure still standing and is slated for a heritage revitalization project the likes of which Vancouver has never seen. But we’ll get to that …

Vancouver General Post Office building
The grand lobby area features terrazzo floors with colorful insets, glass curtain walls and bold geometric aluminum trim.

During construction of this massive 5-story International Style building, which served as Western Canada’s primary mail sorting facility, advanced technologies of the day were applied while the finest of quality finishing materials were used, including polished granite, terra cotta tiles, marble wall panels, terrazzo floors and lots and lots of aluminum clad glazing. No expense was spared and the building even contained several original pieces of commissioned artwork.

It’s said to have been called the “Taj Mahal with escalators” when it opened in 1958 and stood as a symbol for Western Canadian post-war prosperity and optimism. In its heyday it was the world’s largest welded steel structure with nearly 15 acres of floor area and an additional three storys of office space on top.

Vancouver General Post Office building
Looking west from Queen Elizabeth Theatre plaza (Gerhard Hans Class fountain in the lower left foreground), Vancouver’s decommissioned Main Post Office building was the world’s largest welded steel structure when it opened 60 years ago.

The site was decommissioned in 2014 when Canada Post transferred operations to a larger and modernized sorting facility near the airport.

As of this writing, the massive and surprisingly well preserved building is awaiting rehabilitation and redevelopment with plans, that have been endorsed by Vancouver’s Heritage Commission, calling for three new office and residential towers to be built rising up from within the existing structure, and is said to be the largest heritage revitalization in the city’s history.

Vancouver General Post Office building
The International Style structure’s enduring materials include beige colored concrete grids with terra cotta tiles inset, and polished red granite cladding throughout.

Ken MacIntyre is the creator and curator of Modtraveler.net, an Enthusiast’s Guide to Modernism. For more photos and stories of modernist destinations visit his website or follow Ken on Instagram@modtraveler.