Oct 232014
Fort MacLeod Post Office

The two pictures we’ll be looking at in this report show the Fort MacLeod Alberta post office at two completely different times in the building’s history. The first image, scanned from an old postcard, was shot sometime in 1950s and we return some sixty years later to see how it all looks today. Interestingly, outside some modest changes done to its exterior, as it appeared back them is much as it appears now. Not much has changed.

Information on the building is a bit hard to find. Most sources checked, including employees at the building itself, which we contacted, seem to agree it was built in the late 1930s (its style architecturally, seems to support that too). Research continues however.

It’s not clear if an earlier post office stood at this same location. Information on the subject seems really hard to dig up. We found reference to a facility, pre-1900 but what happened to it and when is not clear. There is a big gap, from the turn of the twentieth century to the time the current structure as erected, where the trail goes cold. If you know anything about Fort MacLeod’s postal history, please chime in.

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The building is clad in brick, in many shades and tints laid down what appears to be in a random fashion, an interesting touch, with large concrete sub-walls in each window area. It’s a rather plain structure architecturally and has no real elements worth noting, reflecting the design philosophies of the day, which due to the cash-strapped depression, were rather simple and utilitarian in nature. At the time little money could be had for things like fancy buildings. They just had to be functional.

Outside some entryway additions, and a few other minor details, the building and its surroundings look much today as they did back when the first image was captured. Power lines are gone. They suck the life out of a picture anyway.

The original image is a scan of a postcard sourced by this author. It’s undated, but since we know a little about that car seen (more on this below) I’d say, as a good guess, it’s from the early 1950s. This postcard seems to be quite common and we’ve seen many for sale on eBay. I tried researching who exactly Kingston was, the firm or person who produced or commissioned the card, but nothing much could be found. They did, it seems, photograph a postcard series in Fort MacLeod and besides this one, they shot several others around town.

This card is black and white, which is the least desirable type from a collector’s standpoint. Full colour, or tinted postcards are much more coveted.

The car seen in the old picture is a late 1940s Plymouth. This make, now no longer being made, at one time in fact, was quite popular. We stumble across old Plymouths all the time.

You’ll often hear us tell how we use no photo-shopping techniques or post production trickery to help our photo line up with the old one. We don’t even crop…well, now with one exception…our photo used in this post. A camera strap got in the way (how did I miss than when shooting) and so had to be cut out. Otherwise we adhere the principle of shooting it free hand with no post production manipulation. We do so religiously and would not have it any other way. We’re purists.

Of all the then and now subjects we shoot, buildings are one of the hardest to make look right. For some reason, beyond the scope of our own understanding, it always appears like our now shots often appear to “fall away” at a different rate when compared to the original, even though when overlaying one atop the other, they ofter line up almost perfectly. It’s almost an optical illusion, a distortion which we can’t seem to prevent. Strange.

Fort MacLeod, formerly plain old MacLeod, was founded in the 1880s near the 1870s era Northwest Mounted Police fort and today has a population of some three thousand souls. The town has a very historic downtown core, which will become fodder for, I am pretty certain, for more BIGDoer blog posts.

If you have an old photo or a postcard showing a street scene and would like us to visit the same location today to see how it compares, and them document it all on the BIGDoer website, by all means contact us. We’d love to hear from you. Pictures need to be yours or in the public domain (many old photos and postcards are).

To read about the town’s seedy side, check out this link…
The notorious American Hotel.

To see some of our favourite then and now articles, go here…
Crowsnest Pass then and now.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – downtown west end Calgary.
Empress Alberta then and now.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: July, 2014.
Location: Fort MacLeod, AB.

Ft MacLeod Post Office

The Fort MacLeod Post Office, an old postcard, in the early 1950s (or thereabouts).

Fort MacLeod Post Office

The building in 2014. Read the post in regards to the “fallaway” distortion seen.


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4 Comments on "Fort MacLeod AB then and now – post office"

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David James Perkins
David James Perkins

You made a pretty plain building interesting. Thanks for posting this.

Art Jones
Art Jones

Very interesting! This same design post office building was common across the west.