Continental Chicago

now in its one-hundred-and-eightieth year

The Grand Old Chicago Post Office

1961 photograph of the Chicago Federal Building, designed by Henry Ives Cobb (Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Between 1899 and 1965, this building served as the federal courthouse and main post office in Chicago.  Built as the population of the city was burgeoning in the decades following the Great Fire, the building exemplified the city’s growing material and architectural sophistication.  Designed by Henry Ives Cobb in the Beaux-Arts style, the building was elaborately ornamented and capped off with an impressive dome.  The complex occupied the block bounded by Clark, Jackson, Dearborn, and Adams.

An unknown federal employee took this photograph of the soon-to-be demolished building and its environs in 1961.  The construction shed and pilings at the bottom of the frame show that work on the buildings that would supplant the old federal court had begun.  The Cobb-designed courthouse would be knocked down a few years later to make way for the minimalist replacements designed by Mies van der Rohe that we have now.

Ringing the courthouse from left to right are the Monadnock Building, the Union League Club, the Board of Trade, the Continental Illinois Bank building (obscured), and the 111 West Adams Building (now the Club Quarters Hotel), which are all still standing.

Image: from this source via Wikimedia Commons.

For another view, click here.
For an eerie view of the building during its demolition, click here.

7 comments on “The Grand Old Chicago Post Office

  1. K.W. Hannaford
    October 11, 2012

    Very interesting, Susan; I am a fan of 19th century civic buildings. I was intrigued by J.G. Burdette’s mention of the Evansville post office. Did some quick research and found that the architect was A.B. Mullett, who was Supervising Architect for the US Treasury Dept. and designed many government buildings, including the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

    Wikipedia has a good article on this interesting character, whose life ended in a tragic fashion in 1890.

    • Susan Barsy
      October 11, 2012

      K.W.–Thank you; I love the Old Executive Office Building; and thinking of it just now brings to mind a memory of sitting in one of Neil Harri’s slide lectures and hearing him talk about it! The Evansville P.O. is really a show-stopper.

      I wonder have you been following the blog, Cosmopolis Now? I think civic building is one of the author’s central concerns. . .

      And thank you for adding the Wikipedia link!

      All the best,

  2. J. G. Burdette
    October 7, 2012

    It’s a very imposing building! We have this lovely local post office (no longer a post office though) and from time to time there’s been talk of tearing it down. I’d hate to see it happen. It’s so different!

    • Susan Barsy
      October 7, 2012

      Thanks for sending along the link–your P.O. is one gorgeous building. Even the roof is beautiful! May I ask how the building is used now?

      • J. G. Burdette
        October 7, 2012

        I believe it houses different businesses now. There is for instance a caterer renting there, and back in August there was talk of the Social Security Administration renting the two top floors.

      • Susan Barsy
        October 7, 2012

        Reuse is going to become a common issue if, as some wish, more post offices close. I’m glad that yours has made it so far.

  3. Sam Dune
    October 5, 2012

    That was a fun read & a great photo!

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