James Farley Post Office

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A carefull-detailed Corinthian colonnade under the inspiring inscription
A carefull-detailed Corinthian colonnade under the inspiring inscription

The James A. Farley Post Office,New York City's General Post Office, is located located at 421 Eighth Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets in Manhattan, across the street from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. The building, bearing the inscription: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, is a national historic landmark, and occupies two full city blocks, an eight-acre footprint straddling the Northeast Rail Corridor in the heart of New York's Midtown. The inscription was supplied by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the Farley Building and the original Pennsylvania Station in the same Beaux Arts style. The sentence is a paraphrase of an excerpt from the works of Herodotus (Wikiquote) and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C.E. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done.

Future plans

The Farley building is planned to be converted into a new entrance and concourse for Penn Station by the Pennsylvania Station Redevelopment Corporation, which is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation. The expansion, supported in part by new retail space, is estimated to cost over $750 million and is designed to restore some of the grandeur lost when the original Penn Station was demolished in 1964. The new station is to be named after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The U.S. Postal Service will retain approximately 250,000 square feet of the 1.5 million square-foot building. Beyond retail lobby services, other postal operations remaining in the building will include Express Mail, mail delivery, truck platforms, and a stamp depository. Administrative offices for the Postal Service's New York District will also be headquartered there.

All mail processing operations will be relocated one block away to the Morgan Processing and Distribution Center. All other administrative functions now in the Farley Building will be moved to the Church St. Processing and Distribution Center in Manhattan. Approximately 2,500 postal employees worked in the Farley Building as of 2002. Once operations and administrative offices are moved, approximately 900 employees will remain in their current location.


The Farley Post Office was constructed in two stages. The original monumental front half was built in 1912 and opened for postal business in 1914; the building was doubled in 1934 where it backs up to Ninth Avenue: along the side streets, McKim, Mead, and White's range, which continues its Corinthian giant order as pilasters between the window bays, was simply repeated in order to carry the facade to Ninth Avenue. The monumental fa├žade on Eighth Avenue was conceived as a Corinthian colonnade braced at the end by two pavilions. The imposing design was meant to match in strength the colonnade of Pennsylvania Station (McKim, Mead, and White, 1910) that originally faced it across the avenue. An unbroken flight of steps the full length of the colonnade provides access, for the main floor devoted to customer services is above a functional basement level that rises out of a dry moat giving light and air to workspaces below. Each of the square end pavilions is capped with a low saucer dome, expressed on the exterior as a low stepped pyramid. Inside, the visitor finds an unbroken vista down a long gallery that parallels the colonnaded front.

Upon opening in 1914 it was named the Pennsylvania Terminal. In July 1918, the building was renamed the General Post Office, and in 1982, renamed once more as the James A. Farley Building. James Farley was the 53rd Postmaster General and served from 1933 to 1940. He died in 1976. The building has its own railroad platform in Penn Station.

The Farley Building was instrumental to maintaining service levels in the New York City area following the 9/11 attacks when it served as a back up to operations for the Church Street Station Post Office located across the street from the World Trade Center complex. Advances in automated mail processing technology, coupled with adjustments to postal distribution and transportation networks now make it feasible to absorb associated mail volumes at the Morgan Center.

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Farley building architecture

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