Post Office Antique Mall

A Journey Through History

In 1908, the newly formed City of Ladysmith was alive with commerce of all types. The population had shot to nearly 5000 people and hundreds of ships were arriving and departing yearly. These ships were loading not only coal but also loaded lumber, shingles and other goods. In addition, Ladysmith had become one of the fastest-growing communities in British Columbia. Ships were arriving daily with everything that the new city would require, or to load coal or other goods. These are some of the reasons that in 1908 the Government of Canada decided to issue a contract to have a Post Office and Customs house built on the Esplanade (now the Island Highway).

The Post Office and Customs building was completed in 1910. When it opened with Mr. Theodore Bryant as its postmaster, it was the most impressive building in the City. Constructed of stone quarried from around the Nanaimo area, its floors are made from Eastern Maple that shone with polish, and the doors and window castings and stairway are made with the finest of mahogany.

Even in the 1950’s or 60’s the building was an impressive site. I can still remember playing on the front stairs and my feelings in seeing the stateliness of the building.

For 53 years the residents of Ladysmith would travel down Roberts Street to collect their mail in the rain, snow and the heat of summer. Then they would have to hike back up the hill to First Avenue to do their shopping before challenging the rest of the hill to get to their homes. It was nothing to see mothers pushing baby carriages up the hillside with two or three of their other children tagging along.

A Historic Building

In the building itself, only part of the first floor was used for the post office, the other part was a warehouse for various goods. The top floor was the customs house and it also had a caretaker’s apartment. Down in the basement was a huge coal-fired furnace and an area for coal storage. It is reported that at one time part of the basement was even used as a jail.

In 1955, the Customs moved out of the building as Ladysmith was no longer a center of imports and exports, and in 1963, it closed as the new post office on First Avenue had been constructed, saving the residents the chore of hiking up and down Roberts.

Not Just a Post Office

In 1964 Ted Hall purchased the building and converted the top floor into an apartment and established a beauty salon on the main floor. Over the years it has been a candle factory (it caused a huge fire on the main floor), a pizza parlour, Mac’s Ceramics shop, the Monkey Tree Restaurant, and now home to the Post Office Antique Mall. The present owners, Lois and Jim Anderson, have brought much of the original look back to the building including the original Post Office and Custom’s wickets (which were built to hold British currency only).