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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The New General Post Office

The New General Post Office.

The new General Post Office building, the completion of which has been so anxiously awaited by departmental officers and public alike, occupies the site at the rear of the earlier building, with a principal frontage of 172 ft. to Featherston Street, and side frontages of 128 ft. 11 in. and 125 ft. 10 in. to Grey and Panama Streets respectively. The concrete foundations were sunk by day labour under the supervision of the Public Works Department in 1910 at a cost of between £6,000 and £7,000. They rest upon the hard blue clay which underlies the original beach sand found beneath the reclamation tilling—a relic of the time when the waters of the harbour swept over this site. The contract for the superstructure, springing from the ground-level, was secured by Messrs. J. and A. Wilson, of Wellington, the amount of their tender being £96,923.

The walls of the building are of brick, faced on all street frontages above the basement-level with granite obtained from Tonga Bay, near Nelson. A pleasing contrast has been afforded by the use at the base of the building of a quantity of blue stone supplied from the Dobson quarries, near Greymouth. Care has been taken to produce a building that will prove to a high degree fire-resisting, and to this end the use of timber in the construction has been reduced to a minimum. All the internal pillars are of steel encased in brickwork or concrete, and all the floor-girders are of the same material. Even the window-sashes and the private letter-boxes are of steel. This construction is also calculated to render the building less liable to damage from earthquake-shock. The roof, which is practically flat, has been constructed of steel and concrete overlaid with asphalt, and is adapted for the addition of another story at a future date. It is proposed to grant the use of the flat roof to officers for various forms of exercise.

The building has been designed in the style of the latest phase of the classic Renaissance, and is plain and massive in appearance. The main intention has been to produce a building of strong and

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General Post Office. Wellington, 1912.

General Post Office. Wellington, 1912.

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durable materials destined to serve for many generations of citizens, and possessing the greatest possible architectural interest commensurate with moderate expenditure. An air of grace and refinement has been imparted to an otherwise severe front by the skilful use of statuary in adorning and emphasizing the main entrance. The central allegorical group, representing "The Girdled Earth," was designed and executed by Mr. Alfred Drury, A.R.A, and is a fine example of that eminent sculptor's work. Two handsome figures are seated in repose on either side of a pedestal, which bears at its base a floral shield with the Royal cypher, and supports a globe ribboned with the signs of the zodiac. The medium employed is the yellow freestone hewn from the famous quarries at Portland Island (England), while the miniature locomotive and galleon, which are carried in hand by the principal figures, to typify the means of transport by land and sea in different ages, are modelled in bronze. Supporting the main group are figures symbolical of "Telegraphy" and "Letter-delivery," designed and supplied by Messrs. W. Parkinson and Co., of Auckland, who obtained for the purpose companion blocks of the stone employed by Mr. Drury. A two-faced bracket clock with 4 ft. illuminated dials, which has been manufactured by Messrs. Littlejohn and Son, is affixed to the front of the building immediately above the statuary.

The interior of the building is reached from Featherston Street through a triple-arched entrance leading into the main vestibule, the walls of which are tiled in shades of cream and green. On the right of the vestibule, which measures 40 ft. by 22 ft. 6 in., are situated the posting-boxes, the apertures appearing in two large tiled slabs let into the wall. The directions for posting have been burnt into the tiles, which were specially prepared at the potteries of Messrs. Pilkington and Co., Staffordshire, England. There are in all eight posting-boxes—one for large packages, two for books and newspapers, and five for letters. The apertures of the letter-boxes are labelled respectively "Late Fee," "Inland," "City," "Australian States," and "British and Foreign," with the object of enabling the public to lessen the work of the mail-room officers in the primary classification of the letters. From the left side of the vestibule, entrance is gained to the Money-order and Savings-bank Branches, while directly opposite the entrance-arches two pairs of swing-doors give admittance to the main public office. At the rear of the vestibule, silhouette of car in front of post office page 34 silhouette of motorcyclein an embrasure to the left of the main entrance, are placed the staircase leading to the upper stories and the electric lift provided for general passenger traffic. Here also is seen the first of the series of 101 magneta clocks installed throughout the building, which are all controlled by two master clocks located on the second floor, and thus show identical time.

Inside the spacious public office, measuring 74 ft. by 58 ft., the lofty roof is supported by massive pillars, and a flood of light is thrown on the public space and counters by means of eight lightingdomes set in the ceiling. The main dome is 24 ft. in diameter, the seven satellite domes each 8 ft. in diameter. The finest Flemish glass has been used for the groundwork, and the stained glass, which has been sparingly introduced, enhances the general effect without materially retarding the passage of the light. The glazing of the domes by the new electro-copper-welding process, which is rapidly supplanting the older method of lead glazing, has been admirably carried out by the Luxfer Prism Company, of London. Still further light is obtained by the insertion in the rear wall of the building of three very large windows, placed close together, each window being 16 ft. in width and 10 ft. in height. The frames are made entirely of steel, the panes of fine obscured cathedral glass.

The floor of this large apartment is composed of black jarrah specially imported from Western Australia. Round three sides of the room there sweeps a graceful oval counter, at which will be transacted all classes of postal and telegraph business except money-order and savings-bank. Additional provision for the sale of stamps has been made by the erection of a rotunda or kiosk in the public space. All the counters are topped with Tasmanian hardwood, highly polished, and are faced with marble, the ground being composed of white Sicilian, the pilasters and base of red and mottled grey Brocatella obtained in New South Wales. The grilles which surmount the counters are of solid bronze, and have been designed and supplied by Messrs. Spital and Clark, art-metal workers, Birmingham, England. Florentine bronze plates, manufactured locally, placed on the grilles indicate the positions where the different classes of business are conducted. Ample desk accommodation has been provided for the public by means of two rows each containing twelve desks and a further set of eleven around the kiosk.

A system of pneumatic-tube carriers has been installed for the rapid transmission of documents between the operating-room and other parts of the building. At the extreme end of the public office

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Interior of Post Office

(1) The Money-order and Savings-bank Office.

(2) The Telegraph Operating-room.

(3) The Hon. R. Heaton Rhodes, Postmaster-General.

(4) Mr. D. Robertson, I.S.O., Secretary of the Department.

(5) Mr. J. C. Williamson, Second Clerk.

(6) Mr. W. R. Morris, Asst. Secretary.

(7) Mr. G. B. Dall, Inspector of Post-offices.

(8) Mr. F. V. Waters, Chief Clerk.

(9) The Public Office.

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decorative feature - ships

three telephone cabinets have been erected, each being provided with a telephone for bureau-work. At night the room will be lighted by means of large electric lamps specially shaded, which have been set in the ceiling. The diffused and mellow light thus produced represents the closest approximation to natural light yet obtained. Shaded lights will also he placed at intervals on the top of the counter-grille. It may be of interest to mention that the lamp fittings throughout this part of the building are the production of the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft.

To the left of the public office stands the money-order and savings-bank office, access to which is obtained through swinging-doors opening off the main vestibule. Here the counter, though straight, is in all other respects similar in design to that erected in the general office. The tellers' boxes, seven in number, are constructed of hardwood with screens of Flemish glass. Eighteen desks are provided for the use of the public. The floor is of black jarrah.

On the south side of the building the new mail-room extends for 121 ft. 5 in. by 50 ft. A special feature in this room is the use of New South Wales tallow-wood in the construction of the floor, the object being to provide a smooth and durable surface which will offer a minimum of resistance to mail-bags and hampers drawn across it. The new nests of steel private letter-boxes are ranged for a distance of 56 ft. along the south and west sides of the room, entrance to the private-box lobby being obtained by the public from Grey Street. There are 1,550 boxes in all.

The large room for the accommodation of the money-order and savings-bank staff faces Panama Street. At the rear ample lavatory accommodation has been provided, together with needle-baths and dressing-rooms for the use of officers generally. Further back, between the old and the new building a cartway 16 ft. wide permits of the mails being transported to the back door of the mailroom.

Practically the whole of the parcel-work of the office will be transacted in the basement of the new building, where nearly 11,000 square feet of floor-space is available. Entrance to the branch will page 38 be obtained from Grey Street through the old private-box lobby. In the basement are situated also seven large strong-rooms in which all books, documents, and records of importance or value will be stored; and in order to expedite the transfer at morning and evening a combined passenger and book lift has been installed by Messrs, Turnbull and Jones, of Wellington. In the basement are to be found the boiler-room with its two large boilers, from which will be supplied the hot water required for the Ideal Company's system of radiators, and two electric dynamos, one of which will operate the pneumatic-tube service, and the other the system of fixed vacuum cleaners installed throughout the building. By this system, which forms a novel feature, all dust, &c., will be drawn from every part of the building through 2 in. tubes to a convenient receptacle placed in the basement, where it will be suitably disposed of. The battery-room is also situated in the basement.

The remaining floors of the building do not excite the same general interest, since the work to be transacted there does not touch the public so intimately.

On the first floor at the north end of the building is situated the telegraph operating-room, which measures 120 ft. 6 in. by 49 ft. 5 in., and is fitted with thirty-three sets of instruments, comprising fourteen quadruplex, three duplex, and sixteen single. Facing Featherston Street are the rooms of the Officer in Charge and the Chief Telegraph Engineer. Opposite these are the rooms of the Chief Electrician and the Telegraph Engineer. The laboratory is situated on the corner of Featherston and Grey Streets, while along the southern side of the building extends the letter-carriers' room, 102 ft. 9 in. by 49 ft. 5 in.

On the floor above, the Postmaster-General's room is in the south-western corner of the building, with his private secretary's room on one side and a waiting-room on the other. At the other extremity of the Featherston Street frontage is the room occupied by the Secretary, and the intermediate space consists of the rooms of the two Assistant Secretaries and the Chief Clerk. The portion of the building on the north side has been allotted to the Secretary's clerks and the Correspondence and Record Branches. Along the Grey Street frontage are ranged the rooms of the Inspector of Telegraph-offices and his staff, and the Staff Division of the Secretary's office. There is a retiring-room for women of the Secretary's staff; and the rooms of the Public Service Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners and their staffs are also on this floor.

The third floor is devoted to the use of the Controller of Money-orders and Savings-banks, the Chief Accountant, and their staffs, and also contains a retiring-room for women. Three of the largest

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Some Labour-Saving Devices and Public Facilities in use in the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Service.

Some Labour-Saving Devices and Public Facilities in use in the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Service.

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rooms on this story are the accounts general room (120 ft. 6 in. by 49 ft. 5 in.), facing Panama Street; the telegraph clearing-room (91 ft. by 50 ft.), facing Grey Street; and the money-order room (61 ft. by 29 ft.). situated at the corner of Featherston and Grey Streets. The rooms of the controlling officers are placed on either side of the main staircase, and face Featherston Street.

The old General Post Office building is being renovated and fitted for use in conjunction with the new building. The old telegraph counter will be utilized for the payment of old-age pensions, and the portion of the ground floor facing Grey Street will be used to provide a mail-receiving room, and rooms for the Chief Postmaster and the Assistant Postmaster. The despatch-room and the telegraph messengers' room will remain in their present positions, while considerable space will be provided as a retiring-room for the telegraph message-boys. Two large goods-lifts, manufactured by Messrs. A. and T. Burt, of Dunedin, will be installed—one for the conveyance of heavy packages of letters, parcels, &c., between the ground floor, the letter-carriers' room on the first floor, and the second floor of the new building, and the other for the conveyance of heavy parcel-hampers between the basement and the ground floor. New lavatories with ample accommodation will also be provided.

On the first floor part of the room at the north-eastern corner of the building, which has hitherto been occupied by the telegraph operating staff, will be used for the accommodation of the telephone bureau. The remainder of the Customhouse Quay frontage will be used by women as a retiring-room, and by the Post and Telegraph Social and Literary Club. This club has also been granted the use of two rooms on the south side of the building, next to the room assigned to the Dominion Meteorologist for the preparation of weather reports. Two rooms have been provided as retiring-rooms for the letter-carriers. Lavatory accommodation is also provided on this floor.

The main portion of the second floor—that facing Customhouse Quay and Panama Street—will be used for the accommodation of the Dead Letter Office, the staff of the Inspector of Post-offices, and the Principal Clerk, Postal Division; while the southern portion will contain a drafting-office and a departmental muniment-room. Along the rear side of the building, facing the light-area, a commodious dining-room, kitchen, and pantry have been provided for the use of officers of the Department. The lavatories on this floor have already been completed.

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The new General Post Office, a description of which is within this souvenir presented to the reader, is a fitting domicile for the administration of a Government Department which touches the public interest at all points.

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By Authority : John Mackay, Government Printer, Wellington.-1913. [5,000/8/12-13002

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coat of arms