Inside The Mysterious James Farley Post Office
By Christian Scibetta
The James Farley post office looks like a building stuck in time. Massive and squat with its Corinthian colonnade, it looks otherworldly on modern day 34th street. Step inside and its still one of the most impressive post offices in the United States, but among the beautiful moldings and eloquently painted ceiling, some of the paint has chipped off and the building is starting to show its age.
When asked where to find more information about the Farley post office, one postal worker quipped “why do you want to know? We used to have papers on the history but no more.” Sitting at the passport desk, she had no time to answer, and plenty of suspicions about what the questions were for.
“Why did they get rid of the handouts? Were people not interested?”
“No, did I say that? They just got rid of them.” The postal worker asserted. “Things just changed, the state owns the building now. JAF, that’s James A. Farley, that’s this building. It used to be open 24 hours a day but its only open till 10 now.” She concluded. Don’t make the mistake that she was rude, simply busy.
Looking around the Farley post office, visitors can spy a collection of memorabilia tucked in displays from days past. In an empty corner a sun-worn poster details the resources of the Farley building, including an artifact depository on the third floor and library on the fifth floor that can be accessed by request.
“This is my local post office” one patron said in line smiling. “I live right around here. The first time I came into this post office I was like ‘wow.’ It’s a truly beautiful building,” She remembered. “I think there’s a carved scale model of the post office on display on the other end. It says something like ‘handmade for the post master’ it must be from a long time ago.” She explained. Despite frequenting the post office, she had never heard of an artifacts depository but warned that a lot of the displays were rather old. “You should ask the man in the vest at the front, if anyone can help you find out about this building he would.”
Returning to the center of the hall, the managing postal worker sat helping customers in a blue vest. “The third floor? I’m not sure what’s up there. Just construction materials I think,” he said. The police officer to his side interjected “yeah I think that was once a museum. A while ago, no one goes up there anymore, if you see that flag over there you can see the current museum for the post office.”
Walking down to the other end of the hall, past the postal woman from earlier, the Farley building has gathered pieces of the post offices past. Postal uniforms from a hundred years ago, gifts from foreign postal services, old stamps and other tools. The space the Farley building labels as museum could hardly be considered as such. The pieces sit behind jewelry cases where they have collected a considerable amount of dust. Some cases have with displays that collapsed or picture frames that have fallen over.
Taking one look at the James A. Farley post office and its evident the building has a rich past. Walking inside and asking around it seems the post office isn’t very happy about its present. While the building is far from disarray, most of the massive structure is inaccessible. What the post office does include on display is very old and dirty, and frankly they aren’t interested in visitors poking around. While the Farley building is still a very functional post office and a very beautiful example of neo classical architecture, it has seen better days.
[Photos by Lena Warnke]