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Webster Post
  • Centennial Series: A post office fit for Canandaigua

  • Postal service was begun in Canandaigua in 1794, and in 1860 the federal government obtained a perpetual lease for the Post Office Department to occupy a portion of the Ontario County Courthouse, whic...
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  • Postal service was begun in Canandaigua in 1794, and in 1860 the federal government obtained a perpetual lease for the Post Office Department to occupy a portion of the Ontario County Courthouse, which had been newly constructed in 1857-58. By 1910, overcrowded conditions were beginning to hamper mail handling and it was apparent that more space was needed; thus, a new post office building was authorized by the federal government.
    Money was allocated by the federal government, but the funds were insufficient for the North Main Street location and type of building Mrs. F. F. Thompson felt Canandaigua merited.
    Therefore, she donated the Atwater Block lot (formerly on that site were the historical museum and Atwater Hall) and commissioned architectural plans so that Canandaigua’s Post Office would be an attractive and suitable addition to the public square. The architectural firm commissioned by Mrs. Thompson was Allen & Collens of New York City. Interestingly, Francis Allen was the main architect of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson’s summer estate of Sonnenberg.
    Allen & Collens’ post office is a monumentally scaled Classical Revival style structure incorporating such Greek forms as a portico, a frieze, a window enframement, pylons and an anthemion crest.
    The exterior of the post office is extremely grand for a small city — a village at its opening — like Canandaigua. The focal point of the front façade is its portico, composed of four fluted Doric columns set between a pair of Doric piers.
    The post office was originally a two-story building with a flat roof erected in 1910-12. In 1936-38, the building was enlarged considerably with the addition of a third floor, a two-bay-deep rear wing, and a one-story basement-level boiler room. The third story of the post office became a federal courtroom. The Canandaigua Post Office is one of only three post offices in New York State designed by private architects during the period of the Tarnsey Act of 1893 — repealed in 1913 — which allowed such action.
    The U.S. Postal Service left this structure in the early 1990s and the neighboring YMCA purchased it in 1994 for a dollar from the U.S. Government and made it an addition to the 1959 structure.
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