City Hall Post Office and Courthouse (New York City)

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City Hall Post Office in 1893

The City Hall Post Office and Courthouse was a building designed by the architect Alfred B. Mullett for a triangular site in New York City along Broadway in Civic Center, lower Manhattan, across City Hall Park from New York City Hall. The Second Empire style building, built between 1869 and 1880, was not well received. Commonly called "Mullett's Monstrosity", it was demolished in 1939 and the site was used to extend City Hall Park to the south.[1][2]


Since 1845, the city's main post office had been located in the Middle Dutch Church on Nassau Street, a dark 18th-century building which by the 1860s was stretched past its capacity. Congress eventually agreed and funds were allocated for a new central post office.[3] The initial planning for the project was carried out through a design competition for the site. Fifty-two designs were submitted, but none were judged acceptable. After the failure of the competition, five firms were selected to collaborate on a single design. Richard Morris Hunt, Renwick and Sands, Napoleon LeBrun, Schulze and Schoen and John Perret together produced a Second Empire concept that borrowed from Renwick's Corcoran Gallery of Art and the New York State Capitol. Following complaints by Mullett that the proposed design was too expensive, Mullett took over the project, which nonetheless cost $8.5 million.[4] This coup may have influenced opinions on Mullett's final product.[5] The iron framing was clad with a pale granite quarried in Dix Island, Knox County, Maine.[6]

With respect to the building's lack of popularity, The New York Times wrote in 1912:

The Mullett Post Office has always been an architectural eyesore, and has, from the first, been unsatisfactory to the Postal Service and the Federal Courts beneath its roof.[7]

The City Hall Post Office and Courthouse, Ca. 1906

Built in five storeys (the fifth in its mansard roof) with a basement for sorting mail and a sub-basement for machinery, the building housed the main New York post office as well as courtrooms and federal offices on its third and fourth floors. The building was provided with pneumatic tubes for efficient mail transfer to other post offices. Unfortunately, given the cramped trapezoidal site, the only suitable location for the post office's loading docks was on the side facing City Hall and the park.[1] The building used a French Second Empire style and vocabulary similar to its surviving siblings, the Old Post Office in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.[8]

An accident during the building's construction on May 1, 1877, killed three workers when a concrete slab collapsed, prompting an investigation by the city and a public rebuttal of accusations of misconduct from Mullett.[9]

The site where the building stood is directly across Broadway from the Woolworth Building. With the passage of time and changing tastes, architectural criticism now regards the City Hall Post Office as one of Mullett's best works, providing a now-missing defining element at the bottom of City Hall Park.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Silver, Nathan (2007). Lost New York (Expanded ed.). New York: Mariner Books. ISBN 0-618-05475-8..
  2. ^ "Funds Are Voted to Start New Park; Estimate Board Approves of Moses-Carey Plan to Fill Sound View in Bronx; 150-Acre Tract is Aim; Dumping Operations at Riker's Island To Be Transferred to the New Project". The New York Times. March 3, 1939.
  3. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999), Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-195-11634-8, p. 942
  4. ^ Appleton's Dictionary of Greater New York and its neighborhoods, s.v. "Post-Office" estimated between $6 and $7 million.
  5. ^ Lee, Antoinette Josephine (2000). Architects to the Nation. Oxford University Press. pp. 86–89. ISBN 0-19-512822-2. Retrieved May 1, 2009.
  6. ^ Appleton's Dictionary.
  7. ^ "The Mullett Post Office Site" (PDF). The New York Times. April 28, 1912. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  8. ^ Snell, Charles W. (February 17, 1970). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination: Old Post Office". National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
  9. ^ "The Post Office Disaster: A Statement from Mr. Mullett" (PDF). The New York Times. May 8, 1877. Retrieved 2009-05-01.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°42′43″N 74°00′27″W / 40.712°N 74.0074°W / 40.712; -74.0074