Post Office Tour: Finally, a Bona Fide Post Office

Third Stop: Downtown Seattle Post Office

Downtown Seattle Post Office

Maybe this is where all those displaced Queen Anne post Office customers will go now: The downtown Seattle Post Office on Third Ave between Union and University Streets. Just hop on Metro rte 13 across from Queen Anne Dispatch and head south until you get to the Benaroya Hall stop, then stand in awe of the building across the street from you. Lawrence Cheek, Architecture Critic (is that a paying job? really?) for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, described this post office like so:

The relentless facade of mosaic tiles, aluminum bands and strip windows is unbroken by any feature of interest. It could be a 200-foot-long file cabinet lying on its side. And it’s now careering into outright squalor: stained, dirty, pocked with cavities in the tile veneer.

Buildings like this are worse than nondescript. They suck life out of the street, sapping the public spirit.

Wowza, that cuts! Okay, well, as many Yelp reviewers note (srsly, who reviews a post office on Yelp? isn’t that like reviewing socks on Yelp? they’re necessary, they do more or less what they’re supposed to do, and that’s that), this place could “provide a perfect fiery setting for eternal damnation” (I am not taking credit for that, Alison D., don’t you worry). But wait! Did you ever notice this:

Post Office Insignia

Those insignia lend such an official air to the corrugated metal facade! And what an old-timey font for the building year 1958 – like “Neo-Art Deco”! What was going on in 1958 in Downtown Seattle that made this thing happen?

Well, maybe the Seattle Central Library is a clue: the old (to my mind beautiful) Carnegie library (1906) was demolished in 1957 so that a newer, bigger building could be erected in the same place. It opened in 1960, designed in the International Style by Decker, Christiansen & Kitchin, and looked like this:

Seattle Public Library 1960

Much more open than the Post Office, with plenty of non-load-bearing windows installed, but you can still see those signature rectangles and boxy shape of mid-century architecture. It looks like an institutional edifice, no? Add on a few eagle reliefs to the interior, as the Post Office proudly displays, and I think you’ve got the beginnings of a city’s transformation into a visually modern metropolis! Heeeeyyyy!

Who’s an (armchair) architectural historian out there? Am I way off base with this interpretation? What do you think?

And where oh where could our tour go after this? Our last stop on the Post Office Tour is coming up next

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This entry was posted in Downtown, Info, Post Office Tour, Things to Do in Seattle, Tours and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Post Office Tour: Finally, a Bona Fide Post Office

  1. Shane says:

    That’s hilarious. Who does review post offices on Yelp! You’re kind of in no position to talk though considering you blog about poet offices regularly.

    • Localist says:

      Hmmm, okay, good point! But I’m not *judging* them, see… Maybe? In any case, I love the idea of “poet offices,” as you suggest above. Can we seriously make those happen? Offices you walk into and get to hear recitations of poetry or poets discussing their work… That would be super awesome.

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