On July 26, 1775 the United States Postal System was established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. Franklin, in his turn, put in place the foundation of many aspects of today’s mail system. Today, the U.S. Postal Service is one the nation’s largest civil employers, with over 40,000 offices throughout the continental United States and its territories.
Setting aside the mundane nuts and bolts of the USPS’ work or the expansive scope of their mandate, they also helped create one particularly striking and historic building in our neighborhood: the Cooper Station Post Office.
Though the Village isn’t known for having too many stand-out post office buildings (many are small offices located within other buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood), Cooper Station is an exception. Located at 93 Fourth Avenue, on the northeast corner of 11th Street, the building was designed by William Dewey Foster and constructed in 1936-37 as part of the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) to combat the Great Depression. Foster was responsible for designing structures in both New York City and Washington D.C., including ten post offices in New York City and its immediate suburbs. Cooper Station was designed in the Classical Revival style and its most dramatic feature is the curve of the facade at the irregular corner of the site. Further highlighting the curve of this building is the two-story colonnade comprised of six receded Doric columns which delineate the corner bays.
The Cooper Station Post Office was listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1982 and you can read the designation report here. There are many great examples of the W.P.A.’s efforts throughout the Village and East Village; what makes Cooper Station even more special is it is on the same stretch of East 11th Street as another landmark building, Webster Hall. However, Cooper Station, like most East Village buildings, is not landmarked, and the recent loss of Nos. 112-120 East 11th Street (across the street from the post office) illustrates how vulnerable the neighborhood’s historic resources are to insensitive alteration and demolition.
On this anniversary of the postal system’s establishment, it’s a good time to celebrate this historic and beautiful building and remember that the fight to protect our local landmarks continues.