We’ve already lamented the death of the original Pennsylvania Station, but at least we still have the Farley Post Office! Designed by McKim, Mead & White, the same firm that designed the original Penn Station, Farley Post Office was meant to echo the design of the train station.
The building, originally called Pennsylvania Terminal, opened on Labor Day 1914. According to The Landmarks of New York by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, it was designed by William Mitchell Kendall for McKim, Mead & White in a Neoclassical style popular during the Gilded Age. The station expanded in 1934 by Postmaster James Farley, which lead to the infamous Long-Farley Affair of 1935. Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana accused President Franklin D. Roosevelt of giving Farley (also the chairman of the Democratic National Committee) preferential treatment when it came to building the post office’s annex.
You may have also noticed the inscription “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” on the 280-foot frieze of the building. This is commonly mistaken as the motto of the United States Postal Service. However, the USPS has no motto, and the line was chosen by the architects from Herodotus’s Histories. It describes the faithful work of the post messengers in Persia under Xerxes I.
Soon, however, we may be able to taste the glory of Old Penn Station once more. Plans are underway to transform the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station, a new home for Amtrak trains.
These original drawings are currently on display in the Monumental Treasures case in the New-York Historical Society’s Smith Gallery.