I’ve walked by the James A. Farley Post Office building, located across 8th Avenue from Pennsylvania Station, many times. I’ve always been curious about it, but until recently I had never gone inside. What a treat I had been missing – the building’s architecture and art is fascinating, certainly worth a visit!
Here’s the view of the post office from the Penn Station side. The original Beaux-Arts building, designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, was constructed in 1912. (An addition in the same architectural style was constructed in 1934.) It was originally known as the General Post Office Building but was renamed after the 53rd Postmaster General in 1982. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as designated a New York City Landmark.
Although it’s too small to be legible in the above photo, a famous quote associated with the U.S. Postal Service stretches across the area about the columns: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Although many Americans believe that this statement is the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service, I learned from my research that it is not – instead, the quote was chosen the building’s architects and comes from Herodotus’s Histories. The exterior of the building has some interesting architectural details.
The inside of the building is a magnificent surprise. The high ceiling is incredible, with so many details it’s hard to absorb them all. Included in the ceiling’s design are the seals of ten countries all considered major nations at the time of the building’s construction.
The building is still a working post office, with windows open seven days a week with long hours.
At either end of the lobby are smaller, round rooms with many special architectural details.
These smaller rooms also contain two unique monochromatic murals, painted by artist Louis Lozowick as part of the New Deal’s Treasury Relief Art Project in 1938. They are titled “Triboro Bridge in Process of Construction” and “Sky Line and Waterfront Traffic as Seen from Manhattan Bridge.”
In both the lobby and adjacent rooms, there are artifacts related to postal history, in essence a small postal service museum.
The post office building is part of future plans to expand and improve Penn Station, with new Amtrak access located in parts of the building that are not currently in use. Don’t worry though, the historic details of the building will still be preserved, and the lobby and post office windows still open to all. The plan is to call the new Penn Station annex Moynihan Station, after former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Want to visit the James A. Farley Post Office? It’s easily accessible by public transportation. Many bus routes and subway routes are just a short distance away, and you can take the 1, 2, 3, A, C, or E trains to the 34th Street-Penn Station stop. Additionally, Amtrak trains and Path trains from New Jersey come into Penn Station.