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Morrone on the Farley Post Office

Moynihan Station

Francis Morrone, in a piece in the New York Sun on the Hudson Yards [The Fate of the Hudson Yards] provides some interesting information about the Farley Post Office:

“Continue east on 31st street. Between Eighth and Ninth avenues stands the enormous General Post Office, or Farley Post Office, as it’s been known since it ceased to be the main post office. McKim, Mead & White designed the monumental classical edifice that rose between 1908 and 1913. Its style complemented Pennsylvania Station, on the other side of Eighth Avenue, demolished in 1963. The post office’s 20 53-foot-high Corinthian columns across its Eight Avenue front form the longest colonnade in the city . The building continues to function as a branch post office, and has attracted much interest for what might be built inside its voluminous spaces. For a long time we believed the building soon would welcome Moynihan Station, a new passenger facility to relieve in part the sinful ugliness of the 1968 Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden. But the same Cablevision folks who helped scotch the stadium now want in on the post office, too, so that a new train station may share space with a new sporting arena. Stay tuned.”

Morrone concludes with a note on the translation of the post office inscription, providing one of the rare circumstances where an architect is less prolix than others:

“Meantime, not only does the post office boast our longest colonnade, but what must be our longest inscription: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” It comes from volume 4, book 8, line 98 of “The Histories” of Herodotus, from the Fifth century B.C.E., as translated by William Mitchell Kendall — the McKim, Mead & White partner who designed the building. Perhaps Kendall indulged a bit of license. The University of Chicago classicist David Grene translated the same line as, “And him neither snow nor rain nor heat nor night holds back for the accomplishment of the course that has been assigned to him, as quickly as he may.”