Building a Landmark

Whether you have a
hankering for history
or you’re an
architectural afficionado,
there is something for everyone
in our building (literally)!

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The building’s classic Beaux Arts style façade.

Location: Welcome! Level 2

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Drawing of the new post office building by Daniel Burnham’s architectural firm.
Architectural Post Office Drawing »

Look at this image of Union Station and the the National Postal Museum, located in Washington, D.C. Do you notice any similarities between the two buildings? Both buildings were designed by Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham. Mail and railways had a special relationship, with most mail arriving by train in 1914, the close proximity of the two buildings would allow mail to be quickly transferred to the post office via a bridge over 1st Street NE that still exists today. The building on the left was officially opened to the Washington, D.C. public as their new city post office on September 28, 1914. On July 30, 1993, it opened anew as the Smithsonian’s new National Postal Museum.

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Postcard showing post office (now the National Postal Museum, left) and Union Station (right), circa 1935.
Post Office and Union Station Postcard c. 1935 »
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The building’s classic Beaux Arts style façade.
View of the post office building and Union Station from above
The post office and its next-door neighbor, Union Station.
Post Office and Union Station Exteriors »

Location: Historic Lobby, Level 2

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Historic Lobby, 1970s.

Originally constructed in the grand Beaux-Arts style of the early 20th century, the Historic Lobby underwent significant changes in the 1950s as part of an effort to modernize the building. While the new dropped ceiling and Formica counters were considered an architectural eyesore to many, it was not until after the city’s central mail operations moved out of the building in 1986 that restoration of the historic lobby to its original design began. Want to learn more about the building? Check out the building's history!

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Renovated Historical Lobby, 2013.
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This is the view from the Welcome Desk looking towards the 1st Street entrance. Do you see the depressions in the marble floor where patrons once stood?
View from Welcome Desk of 1st Street Entrance »
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Close-up view of worn marble floors in the Historic Lobby.

Location: Postmaster’s Gallery, Level 2

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The Postmaster’s suite now houses rotating special exhibits.
Postmasters Suite »
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Door hiding a locked safe.

This is the view inside the former office of the Washington, DC Postmaster at the west end of the Historic Lobby. Now restored to its original grandeur, the office housed the postmaster at work while postal operations carried on throughout the building. But the marble fireplace isn’t the only original piece in the room. A locked safe is hidden next to the fireplace by a discrete door in the paneling. You can see a vault door from one of the building’s original safes on display in the Behind the Badge exhibition online.

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A vault door from one of the building’s original safes (left) on display in the Behind the Badge exhibition.
Original Vault Door »

Location: Overlook, Mezzanine Level

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Exterior of the museum’s windows at night featuring postage stamps.
Museum Exterior Windows »

Recognize any of the stamps in the museum windows? Fifty-four stamps were chosen for this special installation for their representation of American history. In addition to providing a colorful backdrop to the museum, the installation helps protect the museum’s collections from outside light. Inside, some stamps, like the original artwork of the 2011 USPS’ Neon Celebrate! Forever stamp, can also be found hanging on the walls!

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Original neon artwork of the 2011 Celebrate! Forever stamp by artist Michael Flechtner (Celebrate Stamp © 2010).
Courtesy United States Postal Service, Postmaster General's Collection
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2011 USPS’ Neon Celebrate! Forever stamp’s neon design gives inspiration to visitors in the museum.
2011 USPS' Neon Celebrate! Forever Stamp »

Location: Atrium, Level 1

a balcony overlooking the museum atrium
The balustrade at the top of the escalators marks an important date in the museum’s history.

What else can you see?

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The escalators leading to the lower level
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Decorative exposed trusses recall the industrial postal operations of the building’s original occupants.

As you look at this view of the museum Atrium, take note of the design details you see in the image. Anything look familiar?

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Sheets of metallic stamps “fresh off” the printer.
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Stamped envelopes cover the Atrium floor.

Location: Customers and Communities, “The Heart of the Community”

Check out this post office located in Dillsburg, PA that was in operation from 1913 to 1971. Both the Dillsburg office and the Washington, DC Post Office were opened in the early twentieth century and closed about seventy years later. And yet, the two post offices couldn’t be more different. How did the needs of the main DC Post Office differ from that of the small town rural post office from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania? How does your neighborhood post office compare?

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This modular post office, originally from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, is now in the Postal Museum's Reaching Rural America exhibition.
Reaching Rural America »
The postmaster included a section fitted with 108 rental lock boxes that allowed patrons to pick up their mail even if the postmaster or clerks were off duty.
Dillburg Post Office Details »
Rural post office patrons, 1938
Most rural post offices, such as the one in this photograph from 1938, operated on commission rather than salary.
Photograph of Customers in a Rural Post Office 1938 »

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