SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

St. Paul P.O.: 1902

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.

To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!


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.

View Larger Map

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.