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St. Paul P.O.: 1902

Circa 1902. "Post office at St. Paul, Minnesota." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Circa 1902. "Post office at St. Paul, Minnesota." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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That building looks nearly identical to the Old Post Office in Washington DC. I wonder how many other siblings of these buildings can be found around the country.

Post Office / Courthouse

To be fair, St. Paul in 1902 had over 162,000 people. This building also housed the Federal Court House for the upper Midwest.

You could look it up

This served as not only the post office, but also the federal courthouse and customs house for the entire state of Minnesota.

Why the Post Office is broke

100 years of castle building and oh yes, that pesky Internet hasn't helped either.

Return to Sender

Postal officials seem always eager to abandon even the best of their old facilities. I recall a postmaster near me about 15 years ago who was gleeful at the prospect of replacing his wonderful oak paneling and furniture with modern steel office fixtures and cubicles. Federal money probably had something to do with it. Go figure.


The size and design of the building does seem excessive for Post Office usage. However, we as a nation appear to have gone to the other extreme when designing some of our modern structures. Purely utilitarian and flat roofed, built out of cinder block and corregated aluminum siding. Maybe a nice compromise between excessive and boring is the way to go! Surprised this beauty still exists!

Not just a post office

This building held a lot more than just the Post Office. I toured it a few years back, and they had a display showing all of the functions it filled. It was the Federal Courthouse for a fairly large region, the custom house, plus filled a lot of other functions. I seem to remember that there were offices listed for all sorts of things-agriculture, Indian affairs, etc, etc. Plus, of course, the post office, which was a much bigger concern in those days.

Post Offices

By the wonderfully named Willoughby J. Edbrooke. Post offices were major buildings and critical in the days before email (and telephone). The sorting offices in New York were enormous (at 35th Street) and even a small town wanted something to stand out and show visitors their importance.


This building was also the Ramsey County Courthouse, so no, it was not just a big mail box.

Deja Vu

There were probably many Romanesque Revival post offices built around the country at the turn of the 19th century - Omaha's old post office was remarkably similar and was also threatened with demolition. The threats were real, and the building was razed in 1966. "Structural concerns" were among the various reasons given the public to justify the action.

As a kid, I spoke to an adult who witnessed the demolition process, and I was happy to hear that the building put up a good fight, defiantly resisting the "headache ball." Demolition reportedly took much longer than anticipated.


Below is the same view from September of 2008.

A Grand Tradition

If It Looks Like the Old Post Office in Washington, that's because both of these Richardsonian Romanesque buildings were designed by the same architect, Willoughby J. Edbrooke, who was then Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department. The St. Paul building was begun in 1894 and finished in 1902; the building was completed after Edbrooke's death by Cass Gilbert, designer of the Woolworth Building and many others. As for why the building had to be so big, that was because this building, like many Federal Government buildings of the time, combined the functions of a Post Office and a Federal Courthouse.

Upper Room

There would be other Federal Agencies on the upper floors. See this Post Office for an example. Don't know about back then, but in my time I've personally seen non-Federal tenants in a Federal Building.

Not everything is about need.

Once upon a time public buildings were not just about the need to perform certain tasks. They were also grand statements of civic pride and attempts to make something beautiful for the community regardless of how mundane the function.

Our current obsession with extreme functionalism has created some of the ugliest buildings in the history of the world.

Re: Did St. Paul really need this monster?

Many post offices served as Federal Court Houses (and still do). The upper floors of this building were used as a Federal Court house.

Did St. Paul really need this monster?

St. Paul in 1902 needed this ginormous structure for sorting letters and packages? What were the upper floors used for I wonder?

Look Ma, no hands

This fabulous building was finished in 1902, but still there was no clock at the clock tower. Currently named Landmark Center, thriving, reborn and renovated, but it was closed in 1970 when there were plans to demolish it. Happily, a group of determined citizens saved the building from the wrecking ball. Reopened in 1978, now is the art and culture center for St. Paul.

Still with us

Now known as Landmark Center.

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