Federal Building, U.S. Post Office, and Custom House, St. Albans, VT
The Post Office and Custom House, St. Albans, Vermont, is located on the northwest corner of South Main (U.S. Route 7) and Stebbins Streets. The property is bordered by a commercial block to the north, and a mixed commercial-residential neighborhood to the west. The site is urban in character, establishing the approximate southern edge of St. Albans' pedestrian central business district. The original building occupied nearly all but the northwest corner of the site. The pronounced downward slope of the site toward the west results in entrance to the first floor level at grade on the east, or principal facade, and entrance to the basement, raised one-half story above grade, at the western end of the original building. Areaways, located at the base of the north and south facades, provide access and daylight to the basement. Additional daylight was originally provided by window wells located along the east and south facades. The original building is comprised of two main components. The two-story core is L-shaped in plan, massed beneath a transverse gable roof (Zone 1A). To the northwest of this core is a one-story, flat roofed wing containing most of the Post Office workroom, loading dock and mezzanine (Zone 3A). The original building, faced with Flemish bond brickwork and trimmed with Vermont marble, was extended to the west with a two-story, flat-roofed Federal office Building addition faced with American bond brickwork above a poured concrete basement, constructed following plans prepared in 1966 (Zone 4B). The interior of the original building contains a public postal lobby decorated with murals installed during the Works Progress Administration and finished with marble. Private offices and workrooms are typically finished plaster walls, ceilings, and trimmed with wood. Changes to the interior which are contemporary with the construction of the Federal Office Building wing are not architecturally significant. Prior to construction of the new Federal Building wing, the Post office and custom house does not appear to have been substantially altered. The major work documented during this period was the adaptation of the basement as a fallout shelter, a project that involved infilling basement windows with concrete blocks. In 1963, the Public Buildings Service of GSA reported that the space was adequate and suitable to the needs of the Post Office and tenant agencies within the building. In the early 1960's the decision was made to dispose of the St. Alban's Immigration Station and consolidate Federal Agencies in a new wing added to the Post Office and Custom House site. Additional property was acquired to the west of the building, and a two-story building was constructed following plans prepared by architect MarcelBeaudin of Burlington, Vermont in 1966. To accommodate the new wing, original masonry openings on the west facade of the existing building were filled in or modified as interior doorways. A new HVAC system, integrated with that of the new wing, was installed in the Post Office and Custom House, necessitating alteration of some north windows and attic openings as supply and return vents, and the lowering of second floor corridor ceilings to accommodate ductwork. The project also included the replacement of the original east entrance doors with glazed aluminum units, replacement of the original lock boxes and counters in the Post Office lobby, and elimination of the skylight above the Post Office workroom. Recent alterations include the replacement of the original slate roof with asphalt shingles in 1979, and barrier-free improvements to rest rooms and interior level changes in 1980.
The Post Office and Custom House in St. Albans, VT is a handsome Colonial Revival building constructed in 1937-38. It was authorized by the Public Buildings Act of 1926, a massive public building program that nearly doubled the inventory of Federal Structures. The building is stylistically and programmatically related to other Federal structures associated with the expansion of the U.S. Customs Service in northern Vermont following the improvement of highway links across the Canadian border in the 1930's. The Post Office and Custom House exhibits a skillful attention to detail in the choice of exterior materials and construction compared with other contemporary buildings of similar scale produced by the Public Buildings Branch of the Treasury Department during the Great Depression.
The Post Office and Custom House is a major public building within its local context, and harmoniously complements the Bellows Free Academy (1930) across from it on South Main Street. Its marble wainscoted lobby contains the well preserved Saltra murals depicting rural Vermont life that were commissioned by the Fine Arts branch of the Treasury Department. The design of the Federal Office Building addition (1966) to its west, which consolidated several agencies on the site, was deferential to the original building and does not detract from its Colonial Revival image.