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The Old P.O.: 1911

The Old P.O.: 1911

The Post Office building in Washington circa 1911, about the closest the District of Columbia ever came to having a skyscraper. Harris & Ewing. View full size.


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Go visit it!

The building is still there--and not only that, the Post Office Pavilion building is open for visitors. The ground floor has a few retail shops and restaurant vendors. Or you can take 2 separate elevators up to the bell tower and look at the beautiful view of Washington. All free too.

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame

It was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, the same architect who designed the Golden Dome at Notre Dame.

Railway Post Office

The white blur in front of the building is a Pennsylvania Avenue railway post office, or R.P.O. The streetcars in Washington as well as several other cities that carried mail and no passengers were painted white. Mail was sorted by a clerk in the car. Letter mail received en route was postmarked aboard the trolley and dispatched to post office stations located near the route.

The "old post office" building served two roles. The offices at street level and above were the Post Office Department headquarters. The building also served as the main post office for the District, with retail windows through the doors up the steps at the front, and a workroom floor in the core of the building and below street level. Loading docks were at the rear for city deliveries as well as wagons to the railway stations.

The mail processing activities and main post office functions shifted to a new building at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E. after Union Station was opened. The Post Office headquarters relocated to a new building across the street to the right in this view, completed in 1932.

Frank R. Scheer
Railway Mail Service Library

Car vs driver

These cars have the look of horseless carriages.

I'm surprised that the manufacturer saw fit to provide a roof over the head of the driver, since they didn't make any other concessions to the comfort of the person operating the thing.

[That's the town car body style -- open driver's compartment, enclosed passenger compartment. - Dave]

AD 1897

Notice the "AD 1897" over the door; it was about 14 years old at the time.


There was a move at one time to tear this wonderful building down! Cooler heads prevailed!!

The grandest of them all!

Seems like government or public architecture in the period this building was built used the same box of parts. Town Halls, schools and post offices all looked very similar. But I have never seen anything approach this in scale. It surely must be the grandest of them all! The life span of these buildings was relatively short. Was it because conversion to newer heating/cooling systems was impractical?

Taxi, anyone?

The three cars in the foreground may be taxis. Is that a fare box in front of the window on the middle one? I also notice that the people just walk wherever they want in the streets. They have sidewalks but do not feel motivated to use them.

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