James Farley Post Office, New York, USA

The James A. Farley Post Office Building is the main post office building in New York City. Its ZIP code designation is 10001. Built in 1912, the building is famous for bearing the inscription:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

In 1982, the post office was officially designated The James A. Farley Building, as a monument and testament to the political career of the nation’s 53rd Postmaster General. The Farley Post Office is home to “Operation Santa,” made famous in the classic 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.. The Farley Building consists of the old general post office building and its western annex. The Farley building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and occupies two full city blocks, an 8-acre (32,000 m2) footprint straddling the tracks of the Northeast Corridor and the Farley Corridor (sub-district B) in western Midtown Manhattan. The building fronts on the west side of Eighth Avenue, across from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. It is located at 421 Eighth Avenue, between 31st Street and 33rd Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan. The Farley Post Office once held the distinction of being the only Post Office in New York City open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But in 2009, due to the economic downturn, its windows began to close at 10:00 p.m. The James A. Farley Building in New York boasts the longest giant order Corinthian colonnade in the world.

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The James A. Farley Building 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 by the then Postmaster General, James A. Farley, and replaced the 1869-80 Post Office at Park Row and Broadway. Postmaster General Farley’s historical association to the landmark is due to this expansion. Farley’s building supply firm, the General Builders Supply Corporation, had received a federal contract under the Hoover Administration to provide building materials for the construction of the Post Office Annex. The General Builders Corporation supplied building materials toward the construction of such landmarks as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and the United Nations Headquarters. Farley was accused by then Senator Huey Long of Louisiana for receiving preferential treatment from the Roosevelt Administration, a charge that later proved to be false, as Farley would be cleared by the Senate of any wrongdoing in what would be known as “The Long-Farley Affair of 1935.”

Where the landmark 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 original building was one of the last built under the Tarsney Act. Up until 1893 all federal non-military structures were designed by in-house government architects in the Office of the Supervising Architect in the United States Treasury Department. The 1893 act introduced by a Missouri Congressman permitted the Supervisory Architect to pick private architects following a competition. Supervisory architect James Knox Taylor picked McKim for the New York post office. In 1913 the act was repealed partially in light of a scandal in which Taylor had picked his former Minnesota partner Cass Gilbert for design of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.

The monumental facade 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. The north end of the gallery houses a small Museum of Postal History.

The building prominently bears the inscription: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, which is frequently mistaken as the official motto of the United States Postal Service. It was actually 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 taken from Herodotus’ Histories (Book 8, Ch. 98) and describes the faithful service of the Persian system of mounted postal messengers under Xerxes I of Persia. The U.S.P.S. does not actually have an official motto or creed, but nonetheless the inscription on the building is often cited as such. The inscription was carved by Ira Schnapp, who later designed the Action Comics logo and many other iconic logos for DC Comics.

Upon opening in 1914, it was named the Pennsylvania Terminal. In July 1918, the building was renamed the General Post Office Building, and in 1982, was dedicated as the James A. Farley Building. (97th Congress, H.Res. 368 3/2/1982). James Farley was the nation’s 53rd Postmaster General and served from 1933 to 1940. James Farley was the supreme democratic party boss of New York State at this time. Farley was responsible for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s rise to the Presidency and is the first Roman Catholicpolitician in American History to have crossover appeal as a candidate for the office of the Presidency of the United State of America. Farley (a native New Yorker) was instrumental in the political careers of Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt (serving as campaign manager to both). Farley was a Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 1940 and opposed the F.D.R. third term.

“…the life of James A. Farley should serve as an example for present and future generations of Americans of the vital contributions which individual citizens can make to the life of the nation through diligent public service…”

— House Resolution 368, 97th Congress, 2nd Session, March 2, 1982

The Farley Building was instrumental to maintaining service levels in the New York City area following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when it served as a backup to operations for the Church Street Station Post Office located across the street from theWorld 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. The post office stopped 24-hour service beginning on May 9, 2009 due to decreasing mail traffic. Effective May 9, the new hours at the James A. Farley Main Post Office are: Mon – Fri: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday: 9a.m. – 9 p.m., and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. There is no window service on federal holidays, but the building is open and self-service kiosks are accessible.

The building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966.

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