Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Church Street Post Office, Interior, NYC
The Church Street Post Office opened in 1937. Its solid craftsmanship has transcended decades of wear
and tear, as well as the impacts of both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on its neighbor the World Trade
Center (WTC). On September 11, 2001, the building withstood the collapse of the twin towers and 7
WTC. In fact, it suffered surprisingly limited damage other than blown-out windows and a foot-thick
coating of dust and debris, even despite scattered fires and the activation of emergency sprinklers inside.
"There was little damage to the actual structure," says Robert Selsam, spokesperson for the building's
management company, Boston Properties. "It's a very sturdy building."
Selsam was in charge of the building's decade-long renovation through most of the 1990s. Calling it a
"complete modernization," his team updated the electrical, plumbing, elevator, and central air
conditioning and heating systems and was launching the final phase of work on the building's main post
office floor in September 2001.
Since then, his company's mission shifted from renovation to restoration, involving the replacement of
more than 800 windows, along with walls and flooring that harbored contaminants such as mold,
asbestos, and lead dust. Three years and several million dollars later, the Church Street Post Office
reopened on August 2, 2004.
Black marble columns topped by silver stars adorn the lobby. The fine work of the building's original
designer, Lewis A. Simon, is present in virtually every corner of the main floor. Simon was the
supervising architect of the Treasury Department in the 1930s, when the New Deal was on the table and
designs were simple and classic, especially for federal buildings like post offices.
Stars are among the main recurring details adorning the building. They protrude like silver badges of
national pride from the original steel entryways on the post office's north and south ends and the ceiling
and black-and-green marble columns inside. The entrances' ceilings follow suit. Their translucent panels
are decorated with an art deco version of the "Great Seal" of the United States -- the eagle image seen on
the back of a dollar bill.
Beneath the grand ceiling and columns are solid marble walls and an almost pristine marble-and-granite
terrazzo floor. "If you look at that interior floor you'd swear it was brand new," Selsam says. "It looks
like it was set and polished yesterday, but that terrazzo is over 70 years old."
The building's metalwork is the backbone of its design. Similar to the chrome-and-steel style of the
Chrysler Building, the main floor's chandeliers, sconce lights, service windows, doors, and vent covers
all feature the pale, somewhat dulled silver metal crafted for architectural continuity throughout.
Colorful, polished terrazzo floors make for grand entrances As for the work that takes place within the
building, the U.S. Postal Service is back in full swing -- with 325 employees on four floors -- after
temporarily shifting operations to Farley Post Office on 8th Avenue and 33rd Street following September
11. In addition to processing mail for the seven downtown zip codes, including two for the WTC that are
still technically active, the building houses a postal store, manned shipping windows, and new, 24-hour
self-service shipping stations complete with scales and postage-label printers.
On the building's other 10 floors, Boston Properties continues to build out space for new tenants, which
now include the New York City Housing Authority and, eventually, the state Department of Health and
the Public Service Commission.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Church St. P.O. Bundles Mail with Art Deco Designs