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Who was James A. Farley?

james farley

Over the past few months, we received several comments in favor of keeping Farley’s name on the new train station in the Farley Post Office Building. For example:

”I think the Garden should be torn down moved into the Farley Annex, a Train Hall should be built in the Courtyard of the Farley Building’s Post Office, and a New Penn Station should be built and renamed Moynihan Station. The Train Hall in the Farley Building should be called the Farley Station, and the new rebuilt Penn should be named the Moynihan Station. The Farley Building is the Flagship Post Office of the United States of America, it is a Historic Landmark, and was dedicated as a monument to the political career of James A. Farley in 1982. All that being said, the sooner those involved with the project realize that Farley’s name is not coming off the landmark, and that the post office is staying, the sooner they will get their Moynihan Station. You can’t turn a historical figure’s monument into a modern politician’s monument. Also Moynihan has a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan dedicated to him. Yeah lets destroy a landmark to replace a lost one makes no sense.”

And:

”The James A. Farley Building/Post Office is a National Landmark dedicated in 1982 as a “monument” to the political career of former Postmaster General and Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign manager James A. Farley. This dedication has historical significance because Farley is a historical figure. (comes via H. Res 368 1982) Removing his name and the post office from the Landmark does not recognize the physical record of “it’s time, place, and use.” The assertion that the construction of the Moynihan Station inside of the Farley Building, somehow negates the fact that the Landmark is Mr. Farley’s monument is a legally weak argument and is one of the largest historical crimes anyone has ever attempted in the City of New York in the name of Development. Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have been honored to have the station dedicated in his honor, and it is only fitting that before he passed he warned those involved with the project “Good old Jim Farley’s name should stay there!” The removal of the Farley Post Office from the Farley Building kills the project, and would be a crime against Farley’s legacy and thus the nation, 2-4 billion dollars is not worth it.”

moynihan station south front angle small

Just as we provided a brief bio of Moynihan, we thought it would be fitting to do the same for James A. Farley.

James A Farley was born in Grassy Point, NY in 1888. After a brief stint with the United States Gypsum Company in New York City, Farley returned home and embarked on a remarkable political career. He served as the town clerk in Grassy Point, NY, warden of the Port of New York, New York State Boxing Commissioner, Postmaster General, head of the Democratic National Committee, trusted advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, commissioner on the Hoover Committee, and presidential candidate in 1940. He is recognized as the first Irish American Catholic to achieve political success at the national level.

He was also famous for what became known as the Farley File. Farley kept a file of information on anyone he or President Roosevelt met with, including names of children, background, and interests.

As Postmaster General Farley was instrumental in bringing public art into the Farley Building and post offices throughout the country. According to a biography from the USPS:

“Between 1934 and 1943 Farley oversaw the acquisition of art for the new headquarters building and Post Offices around the country by working with the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture, later called the Section of Fine Arts. In contrast with the Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) designed to provide general economic relief, the Treasury program’s mission was to commission art, murals, and sculptures for newly-constructed federal buildings. The art purchased for headquarters included murals and sculptures for the facade and interior of the building. Another 1,200 murals and 300 sculptures were commissioned for Post Offices. Works were selected through national and regional competitions, and winning artists were asked to consult with Postmasters and townspeople before starting a project.”

Click here to read a New York Times article about the Louis Lozowick WPA-era murals in the Farley Post Office. Farley passed away in 1976 and the General Post Office was renamed “James A. Farley Building” by Congress in 1982.