Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Main Post Office in Chicago -- October 15, 1928

Chicago's Main Post Office in its Salad Days (
Well, the busy season on the tour boat is over and the travelling is pretty much done for the summer, so . . . I’m back.  Hopefully, with a little more time on my hands, I will be able to keep a more regular schedule and come up with a more impressive output than the past three months or so have seen. 

We’ll see . . .

Anyway, today is kind of a neat anniversary of sorts since on this date, October 15, back in 1928 the prestigious Chicago firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White were chosen as the architects responsible for designing the largest post office in the world. 

On that date the site on which the building would stand had not been paid for in full.  220,000 square feet in an area surrounded by Harrison, Canal, Polk, and Clinton Streets had been purchased from Marshall Field & Company.  That left 30,000 square feet that the Foreman Trust and Savings Bank refused to sell for the government’s offered amount, and condemnation proceedings were still tied up in the courts. 

Maybe Foreman should have accepted the government’s offer and moved on.  On Tuesday, June 9, 1931, streets were blocked off in the Loop as the sum of $200,000,000 was transferred from the bank to the First National Bank of Chicago when the latter institution took over all of Foreman’s assets rather than have it fail in the first throes of the Great Depression.

Pennsylvania Railroad train leaves the post office behind on a
cold Chicago morning (Library of Congress)
But that came later, of course.  On this date in 1928 James A. Wetmore, supervising architect of the United States Treasury Department announced that Graham, Anderson, Probst & White would receive $145,000 for service that would include the design of the building and the floor plans.

Ernest R. Graham, representing the firm, said, “The design for the post office will be in keeping with what a government building should be in the city of the magnitude of Chicago.” [Chicago Tribune, October 16, 1928]

understatement, right?  Chicago was to get the largest post office in the world, 2,485,000 square feet of mail-handling space with room for 5,500 employees.  Preliminary plans called for an eight-story building with the top two floors to provide space for as many as 30 federal agencies.  The expectation was that the building was to be completed by the opening of the Century of Progress Worlds Fair in the summer of 1933.

It was.

Today it looks pretty forlorn, its immense Art Deco corners standing in the shadow of its cousins, 2 North Riverside Place and the Civic Opera Building, just a couple of bridges up the river.  It will be there for a while.   Although it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cannot be significantly altered or demolished, another partnership scheme intended to begin the development of the building fell apart at the beginning of this month. 

We’ll keep waiting.

Won't somebody PLEASE pretty up this Art Deco treasure?  (JWB photo)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh! I'm so glad you're back! Great, interesting post as usual.