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Victoria Park Post Office, 414 Albany Hwy, Victoria Park, WA, Australia

Photographs None
List Commonwealth Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (22/08/2012)
Place ID 106197
Place File No 5/11/020/0175
Summary Statement of Significance
Victoria Park Post Office, completed in 1913 to a design by Public Works Department Architect Hillson Beasley, and originally comprising a single-storey post office and telegraph office with quarters, is of historical and social significance. Its construction came at a time when Victoria Park had evolved as a ribbon development flanking a main road, now Albany Highway, between Perth and the town of Albany. An earlier post and telegraph office of 1898, in leased premises, was later replaced by the current building on its prominent and centrally located corner site. The generous size of the building, its rich original detailing and presentation to two streetscapes (albeit diminished by later works), and its location in an important part of the Victoria Park commercial area, all enhance these aspects of significance, as does its role as a recognisable historic public building within the townscape (criteria a and g).
 
Architecturally and stylistically, the post office building is significant; as a whole it remains substantially intact externally, albeit works to the building over time have had some impact. While the extension of the main building front in c.1950 sustained the majority of original detailing, the reconfiguration of the gabled roof profile, including removal of the decorative gargoyles, roof lantern and the gable to the Albany Highway, have detracted from some of the picturesque qualities and whimsical detail of the original design. The over-painting of the exterior has also further impacted on the architectural presentation of the building. Notwithstanding this, the post office retains its rusticated piers, thickly scaled Romanesque arched openings and arcaded frontage, and deep rendered courses. The original use of gryphons, albeit removed, is also of note as these elements were rare in government buildings (criterion d).
 
Victoria Park Post Office is of aesthetic significance. This in part derives from its location on a prominent corner site, at the junction of Albany Highway and Duncan Street, in the commercial centre of Victoria Park suburb. The high level of visibility afforded to its historic elevations and hipped roofscape (albeit altered) also gives the building some landmark qualities. Aesthetically, the post office additionally gains value from its strong streetscape presentation which, despite the overpainting, maintains the contrast between the brick walls and rendered detailing, enhanced by the strongly modelled arched streetscape facades with rusticated piers (criterion e).
 
The significant elements of the Victoria Park Post Office include the original 1913 building component, with integrated residence. The c.1920s timber-framed, skillion-roofed and enclosed post office box alley to the rear is a lesser element; while the metal skillion-roof and small office addition to the east side of the former telegraph office; ramp to the corner porch; and the timber picket fence are not significant.
Official Values
Criterion A Processes
Victoria Park Post Office was completed in 1913 to a design by Public Works Department Architect Hillson Beasley and comprised a single-storey post office and telegraph office with quarters. By the time the post office was built, Victoria Park had evolved as a ribbon development flanking a main road, now Albany Highway, between Perth and the town of Albany. An earlier post and telegraph office of 1898, in leased premises, was later replaced by the current building on its prominent and centrally located corner site. The generous size of the building, its rich original detailing and presentation to two streetscapes (albeit diminished by later works), and its location in an important part of the Victoria Park commercial area, all enhance this aspect of significance.
Criterion D Characteristic values
Victoria Park Post Office is an example of a:
1. Post and telegraph office with quarters (second generation typology 1870-1929)
2. Small government building in Federation Free-style (1890-1915).
3. Design by Public Works Department Chief Architect, Hillson Beasley
 
Typologically, Victoria Park Post Office is one of several single-storey post offices designed for smaller towns or regional centres throughout the State. As an example of a post and telegraph office with a residence at the rear, the building has some external integrity, but the latter functions have been removed and impacted internally. The interior has in fact undergone serial alterations over a long period and evidence of the planning associated with the type, particularly the relationship between the main postal hall, the residence and telegraph function is low.
 
Architecturally and stylistically, while the extension of the main building front in c.1950 sustained the majority of original detailing, the reconfiguration of the gabled roof profile, including removal of the decorative gargoyles, roof lantern and the gable to the Albany Highway, have detracted from some of the picturesque qualities and whimsical detail evident in the original design. The over-painting of the external surfaces has also further impacted on the architectural presentation of the building. Notwithstanding this, the post office building as a whole remains substantially intact externally. The building also retains its rusticated piers, thickly scaled Romanesque arched openings and arcaded frontage, and deep rendered courses. The original use of gryphons is also of note, albeit removed, as these elements were rare in government buildings.
 
Victoria Park Post Office, on its prominent corner site and with a high level of visibility to its historic elevations and hipped roofscape (albeit altered) has some landmark qualities. Aesthetically, the post office also derives value from its strong streetscape presentation which, despite the overpainting, maintains the contrast between the brick walls and rendered detailing, enhanced by the strongly modelled arched streetscape facades with rusticated piers. The building also contributes to the heritage character of the Victoria Park commercial area.
Criterion E Aesthetic characteristics
Victoria Park Post Office, on its prominent corner site and with a high level of visibility to its historic elevations and hipped roofscape (albeit altered) has some landmark qualities. Aesthetically, the post office also derives value from its strong streetscape presentation which, despite the overpainting, maintains the contrast between the brick walls and rendered detailing, enhanced by the strongly modelled arched streetscape facades with rusticated piers. The building also contributes to the heritage character of the Victoria Park commercial area.
Criterion G Social value
Victoria Park Post Office has some social value as the focus of local postal services for approximately 100 years. This value is enhanced, however, by the prominent place of the post office within the local commercial area, and through its role as a recognisable historic public building within the townscape.
Description
Victoria Park Post Office, of 1913, is freestanding and setback on an angle to the street corner formed by Albany Highway and Duncan Street. The original building incorporated a post and telegraph office and residence. The roadside setting contrasts visually to what is otherwise an undistinguished commercial strip of more recent construction.
 
The post office presents as a single-storey (overpainted red) brick building with contrasting rendered detailing, strongly modelled arched streetscape facades and tile-clad hipped roof forms, with gablet. The corner entrance porch is located in the south-west of the building, and has rendered arched openings with accentuated keystones, and rusticated piers providing access to the retail shop in a repositioned doorway. The building presentation to Duncan Street is broken into three bays, with the arcaded front to the pots office bay, a skillion-roofed verandah to the middle bay (originally with a timber-posted verandah), and a further bay with a pair of rectilinear window openings. The latter two bays are part of the original residence. The Albany Highway frontage originally comprised a four-arched bay to the post office, incorporating the corner entrance porch, and a hipped gable and lantern to the roof.
 
The latter two elements, as well as gryphons, have been removed, and a 1950s addition extended this frontage to provide two further bays, built in a matching style. The mitred joint of the timber-slatted eave indicates the extent of the original roofline. While broadly identical in elevation, the coursed spandrel underneath each opening, led to the simplification of the sills rather than the stepped pattern shown in the original openings.
 
The chimneys are rusticated face brick; the rusticated motif (by this time something of a Commonwealth signature) is continued along the highway frontage as a dado up to the springing points of each arch. The arches themselves have individually rusticated voussoirs and elongated or accentuated keystones, in the contemporary Edwardian Baroque manner. The sides and rear of the post office are cast as standard Federation villa elevations, with double-hung sash windows and angled fireplaces.
 
Other external elements include a timber-framed, skillion-roofed and enclosed (half glazed/half corrugated iron panelled) post office box alley to the rear of the site with a separate entrance; a ramp with steel balustrade to the corner porch; and a non-original timber picket fence to part of the property boundary. The post-box alley was created in the 1920s when the rear verandah was bricked in and replaced by a wall of post-boxes, sheltered under an extended verandah. A metal skillion-roof and small office addition has also been made to the east side of the former telegraph office.
 
The interior has undergone serial alterations over a long period. These changes have impacted on the relationship between the main postal hall and the original residence and telegraph office. However, original internal fabric remains evident throughout, including cornices and architraves, although later fabric includes joinery, suspended ceilings, partitions and new internal wall openings. The main postal space has a typical contemporary Australia Post retail fitout.
 
In c.1923 the residential quarters were reduced to a single bedroom and bathroom, and the remainder of the quarters were refurbished as a mailroom and offices, supplanting the original three bedrooms and living room. This included a postmaster’s administrative office and telegraph room which replaced two of the bedrooms. The kitchen became a serviced staff room and the mailroom eventually occupied the parlour. The wall dividing the postal hall and mailroom was later removed, the main counter extended and a range of alterations were made to the doors and windows. Another set of internal alterations led to a simpler division of public area and mailroom, with a new postmaster’s office at the rear and internal access to the post office boxes. The staff or ‘welfare’ room was converted into a toilet block and the lunchroom relocated to the remaining former bedroom of the old quarters. The fireplace was removed from the public hall, but all the other fireplaces remain, though blocked up. One houses a small safe.
 
Key areas/elements:
• Freestanding corner presentation;
• external detail associated with the original arched post and telegraph office; and
• corner entry porch
History
The following history is based on the details provided in the Western Australia Heritage Council (WAHC) Register of Heritage Places compiled in 1995, and extracted from a 1994 assessment report prepared by David Kelsall.
 
Victoria Park evolved as a ribbon development flanking a main road, now Albany Highway, between Perth and the town of Albany. The first subdivision of residential lots began in 1887, and following the opening of the railway station in 1893, and the gazettal of the municipality in 1897, commercial and residential development followed. In 1898, a post and telegraph office was established in Victoria Park and conducted its operations from leased premises. It was designated an allowance office in 1904 and later, in 1912, was granted the status of an official post office.
 
A site for a new post office was purchased by the Commonwealth in July 1913 on the eastern corner of the highway and Duncan Street (WAHC, p.4). The intention was to redevelop a house then on the site to provide larger premises. Plans were prepared and signed by Hillson Beasley, Chief Architect of the PWD. In January 1913, the building contract was awarded to W N Roberts for ₤1711/14.
 
Victoria Park Post Office was built as a face brickwork building with an attached residence to provide a three-bedroom quarter at the rear. Verandah entries were located on the northwest (Duncan Street) and northeast sides (rear yard) while the main corner entry porch had arched openings faced with brick piers and walling. It is possible that the postal hall ceiling had a dome over the main counter lit by the lantern. Internally, the accommodation included the postal hall, cashier’s enclosure, telegraph room, postmaster’s office, hall and mailroom. However, by 1923, the residential function had been reduced to one bedroom and the remaining areas reassigned as a mailroom and a welfare room. Minor alterations were carried out during the 1940s and a more substantial addition constructed in the 1950s, to extend the width of the building along Albany Highway by two bays.
Condition and Integrity
Externally the building appears to be in relatively sound condition, well maintained and with no major defects visible.
 
Original fabric
Structural frame: Solid masonry construction with a timber-framed roof and floor.
External walls: Exposed face brickwork and struck mortar with rusticated dado to the main street frontages, subsequently overpainted. Generally, openings have timber-framed double hung sash windows and cement rendered sills. The main arched windows have rendered patterning with elongated simulated keystones and a curved central transom to match the radiused head of openings.
Internal walls: Generally, painted rendered brickwork with some original moulded timber skirtings and architraves evident. Beams at the ceiling line indicate the removal of original walls. Some angled hearth placements are intact but are infilled.
Floor: Timber-framed and boarded, now generally lined with non-original finishes such as carpet and vinyl Ceiling: Original lathe and plaster ceiling subsequently concealed by suspended plasterboard with recessed fluorescent lighting over the public and retail areas. Raked timber boarded ceiling intact in the former rear northeast store, but relined generally.
Roof: Timber-framed gambrel roof with terracotta gryphons and a roof lantern over the postal hall. Subsequently the roof has been reconfigured and clad in terracotta tiles. Eaves are timber slatted.
Other: Much of the original wall surfaces in areas used for retail and mail sorting purposes are concealed by aluminium framed laminate shelving.
Note that the post office boxes are housed in a separate timber-framed structure located in the northwest site corner and is clad with metal sheeting.
 
Summary of development and/or alteration
1920-23: The present presentation of the building began either with the revisions of June 1920 mentioned on Beasley’s original plan, or from the rearrangement of residential facilities after this use altered in 1923. The quarter’s were reduced to a single bedroom and bathroom, the rear entrance verandah bricked in and replaced by a wall of post-boxes, sheltered under an extended verandah brought out close to the street. The remainder of the quarters were refurbished as a mailroom and offices, supplanting the original three bedrooms and living room. This included a postmaster’s administrative office and telegraph room which replaced two of the bedrooms. The kitchen became a serviced staff room and the mailroom eventually occupied the parlour.
 
c.1940s: The wall dividing the postal hall and mailroom was removed, the main counter extended and a range of alterations were made to the doors and windows. Plans from this period also indicate fences, outbuildings, a garage and incinerator, all on the Duncan Street side (MHI, p.3).
 
c.1950s: Two additional arches were built to the four originally facing Albany Highway. The mitred joint of the timber-slatted eave indicates the extent of the original roofline. While broadly identical in elevation, the coursed spandrel underneath each opening, led to the simplification of the sills rather than the stepped pattern shown in the original openings. Further alterations to the roof led to the removal of the original gryphons and lantern, and some chimneys may also have been removed at this time. Another set of internal alterations led to a simpler division of public area and mailroom, with a new postmaster’s office at the rear and internal access to the post office boxes. The staff or ‘welfare’ room was converted into a toilet block and the lunchroom relocated to the remaining former bedroom of the old quarters. The fireplace was removed from the public hall around this time, but all the other fireplaces remain, though blocked up. One houses a small safe.
 
Date unknown: Air conditioning was installed and two of the arched windows facing Duncan Street replaced by anodised aluminium-framed windows. The linoleum floor has been replaced with carpet in the public areas. A suspended ceiling has been added, probably at the time of the retail area conversion in the 1980s or 1990s with new fluorescent lights.
 
Date unknown: Metal skillion roof and small office addition located on the east side of the former telegraph office; redevelopment of the bitumen rear yard as a loading bay and car parking area.
 
Date unknown: Refurbishment of the former quarters as offices for ‘RAMS’.
Location
414 Albany Highway, corner Duncan Street, Victoria Park.
Bibliography
References
GS Warmington and AC Ward, Australia Post Survey of Historic Properties in Western Australia, 1993; Town of Victoria Park, Municipal Heritage Inventory Place Record Form, undated [MHI]; Heritage Council of Western Australia, Register of Heritage Places, Database Number 2222; Savills, APPD Property Valuation Report, June 2005.
 
Architectural drawings
Original: Original elevations and sections dated 1913.
Alterations: Revisions dated June 1920 and 1923, probably by Commonwealth government architects.
Existing conditions: 2004 Australia Post Corporate Real Estate basic site and building layout.
 
Photographic images
1913, 1937, 1980, 1991-2, 1993, 2006 (survey)
 
National Archive records
Victoria Park Post Office buildings, Series Number PP224/2, Barcode 1542919; Victoria Park Post Office release of premises, Series Number K1, Barcode 731886; Victoria Park Post Office, Series Number PP715/1, Barcodes 882471, 882510 & 882644; Victoria Park Post Office, Series Number PP272/1, Barcode 1361444; Victoria Park Post Office, Series Number K1209, Barcodes 1660370 & 1660374; Victoria Park Post Office, Series Number K1201, Barcodes 880348 & 881363; Victoria Park Post Office additions, Series Number PP280/1, Barcode 1553770; Victoria Park Post Office site, Series Number K273, Barcode 857216

Report Produced  Wed Sep 24 10:01:28 2014