The Post Office, built by French town planner and architecture Daniel Fabre around 1895, is located in the former European or French district. This administrative building gave its name to square where it is located. ”Place de la Post ”.
When Cambodia and France signed the protectorate treaty of 1863, Phnom Penh was only a small village of buildings settled on the dike between the river in the east and the plain, liable to blooding , in the west.
After becoming the capital of Cambodia, the city gradually becomes more organized. It was divided into four districts: In the north, the King gave sizeable lands grants to the Catholic Anna mite community. In the south, around the Royal Palace and Wat Ounalom, King Norodom located Khmer communities. In the Center, the Chinese community occupied the trades district, where the first apartments appeared. Between the Wat Phnom and the Tonle Sap, the French Concession housed French administrations buildings and residences.
From 1890, with the arrival of administrators Hyun de Verneville, Superior Resident of Cambodia, Phnom Penh became a modern city. De Verneville launched the first large scale urban and earthwork projects, which significantly modified the capital and made it a prettier and healthier city to live in. Aware of the necessity to extend the western side of the city, de verneville oversaw drainage of the plain through the excavation of a semi-circle canal surrounding the French district (completed in 1894) and used the earth to fill in the “beungs” small water channels). By 1899, bridges were built on the southern side of the canals. De Verneville also ordered the building of new roads, continued the expansion of the ‘Grande Due’ and the construction of the docks. He refurbishes Wat Phnom Penh, surrounding it with garden, and opened Norodom Boulervard as a link between the Cambodian and European districts. He also ordered the construction of hundreds houses and public buildings such as the Post Office and the adjacent Police Station.
The villas and public buildings in the French districts feature various European architecture styles from the end of the 18th Century, inspired by Greek and Roman architecture, Italian Renaissance palaces and French seaside stations, Homogeneous, with geometrical and cobblestone streets, bordered with trees, gardens and houses, the French district is a model of modern urbanization.
With its outstanding heritage buildings, the Post Office square must be considered as a truly exceptional area.
The square lies at the heart of the French administrative district, which also includes the Bank of Indochina, the city hall, Treasury, the Police Commissariat, the Hotel Manolis and Grand Hotel and the tax and Excise Department, among others.
A garden that was originally in front of the Post Office was replaced in the 1930s with a square, the two wings of the building edifice were extended to the North and the South
During the 1940’s , a central squat tower surmounted by a cupola roof was removed and replaced by an eccentric array of loud speakers. During 1950’s and 1960’s, the Post Office was modified again. In 1991, one floor was added on each wing with a continuation the original style. The building is from then on, a two-storied construction: storage on the ground floor, administrative offices on the first floor.
With its roman arch windows, columns with Corinthian capital, balconies with balustrade and columns, pediments, sculpted decorations, the building is a fine example of neo-classic architecture in a Southeast Asian Context.
(Sources: Heritage Mission Workgroup)