Architecture of the American Post Office
Oftentimes we discuss interesting stamps themselves, but today is devoted to the buildings in which they’re bought, sold and slapped onto letters to be thrown down mailboxes. The post office building—an American icon with the most fascinating of histories. But why should we care?
When it comes to public and government buildings (especially post offices), the years that they they were built tend to offer us nice examples of what was trending in architecture at those times, which can also point to other things about society in general. A timestamp, if you will.
To name one example, in the 1820s, Greek Revival became a dominating style in which to build a post office or other public structure. Why? Because we were a new country, founded on the ideals of the democracies of Ancient Greece. Building our public spaces to match the ancient buildings in which our ideologies were inspired paid homage to the idea of democracy as a whole—and more importantly, taunted British tyranny and the fact that they lost the war for our freedom.
Beyond their overarching political implications, many post offices are downright beautiful. Some have been preserved, and some haven't. Still standing, or long since replaced, let’s examine a few noteworthy American post offices, then you can browse our inventory of stamp albums and stamp supplies!
Grand Central Station
Not to be confused with the iconic New York City train station which is actually officially called Grand Central Terminal, Grand Central Station technically refers to its adjacent post office—the train station has borrowed its namesake over the years. While its interior has been remodeled several times, the exterior remains largely as it was in 1906 when it was completed. Featuring Roman Revival motifs—namely those iconic Doric columns—Grand Central Station post office well-evokes many of its public structure siblings of the early 20th century.
1885 Boston Post Office
If you’re planning a trip to Boston to see the city’s great post office of 1885, you may want to rethink your agenda, given it was knocked down nearly 90 years ago. And it’s a shame that it’s gone. Built in the Second Empire style (a French-inspired architectural form that was popular in the mid-19th century), to say this structure was ornate and grand would be an understatement. Decorated with Iambic columns, mansard roofs and sculptures galore, imagine what it would’ve been like to go about your mail business there? Apparently, the citizens of Boston thought it was too much to look at, so down it went.
Jumping away from the ornateness of the 1800s, let’s move ahead to New York City’s East Village circa 1937, when modernism was at its peak. In Cooper Station post office, you’ll see the American post-depression New Deal era desire to make its public structures more utilitarian, yet sleek and stunning. Travel to the Big Apple today to see this still-standing building, crafted in the Art Moderne style.
Whatever your preferred architectural style is, we’re just glad some of the great old post offices of yesterday have been preserved. Imagine if they built them today like they did 150 years ago? Ponder that thought while you browse our stamp supplies and stamp collecting supplies!