It's massive, old, and almost looks out of place among the surrounding office buildings. A relic from a different time, its closest neighbor is Madison Square Garden. The Farley building was conceived and constructed to replace the 1878 General Post Office, located downtown on Park Row and Broadway.
Construction of the Pennsylvania Terminal Building, as it was called then, came on the heels of the completion of McKim, Mead & White's monumental Pennsylvania Station. In the photo below, taken in 1913, Penn Station sits in the foreground, with the Penn Terminal building just behind it, to the west, and, for a good measure of bizarre, a lone guy on the roof of the building in the lower right corner. He was probably counting Penn Terminal's colonnade of 20 Corinthian columns, designed to complement the facade of Penn Station. Both buildings were designed and built by McKim, Mead &White, Beaux-Arts kings in the early 1900s.
Penn Station was completed in 1910, and that same year, ground was broken for the Penn Terminal building. Penn Terminal was finished in 1913, and opened for business in September, 1914. In this postcard, most likely issued shortly after the new post office opened, it's rendered quite majestically. The artist took some liberties with the gold-embellished columns, but it really was (and is) an impressive building.
|Image: Pisark's Cards|
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN NOR HEAT NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS
The quote comes from Herodotus' Histories 8.98, and refers to Angarum, the royal riding post in the Persian Empire. Schnapp had previous experience carving, having completed the front facade of the New York Public Library in 1911 when he was just 19 years old.
Around 1918, Penn Terminal was renamed General Post Office Building, and here it is in 1920.
|Photo: NYPL Digital|
In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed James A. Farley as the 53rd Postmaster General. Under Farley's leadership, a western annex was added onto the existing building in 1934, and The General Post Office building was extended all the way to Ninth Avenue, giving it superblock status. Farley served until 1940, successfully managing the postal service during the Great Depression, and greatly improving trans-continental mailing services.The next two photos are from the Smithsonian's flikr page, which is definitely worth a visit.
In this photo, taken on June 15, 1936, postmen exit the building to deliver the first round of WWI "bonus army" checks. In 1932, WWI veterans demonstrated in Washington DC, demanding faster payment for their Service Certificate Payment. Click through the photo for more information.
Below, postmen storm the Eighth Avenue steps to deliver holiday packages in 1952, fourteen years before the building was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and ten years before demolition began on its neighbor Penn Station in 1962 to make way for Madison Square Garden.
You can still see a good bit of Farley history in the Farley Museum, located in the north pavilion, as well as the building itself. I was fortunate enough to get a brief work-related tour of part of the building. Here are a few photos.
Detailed ceilings in the front foyer
Postal delivery bike on display
Steel girders in the loading dock (probably original)
To read a more in-depth post about the history of the building, check out Daytonian in Manhattan, and for a more thorough look at the inside of the building as it is now, before it turns into the new Moynihan Station, check out Scouting NY.