Minneapolis Post Office (Main Post Office), 100 South 1st Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Minneapolis Post Office (Main Post Office)
|Address:||100 South 1st Street|
|Neighborhood/s:||Downtown West;Saint Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Saint Anthony Falls Historic District, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|Hennepin County, Minnesota|
|Primary Style:||Art Deco/Art Moderne|
|Additions:||Six-story parking garage added in 1978 to Northwest end. Expansion of 400,000 square feet added from 1988 to 1992.|
|Historic Function:||Post office|
|Current Function:||Post office|
|Architect or source of design:||Leon Eugene Arnal|
|Material of Exterior Wall Covering:||Limestone|
|First Owner:||U.S. Postal Service|
|Part of the Site:||St. Anthony Falls Historic District|
The Minneapolis Post Office has served as the main post office for the city of Minneapolis and its surrounding area since its opening in 1935. The Art Deco style facility is situated along 2 blocks of 1st Street between Hennepin Ave. and 3rd Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis. It was designed by French-born architect Leon Eugene Arnal and constructed using local materials. It has undergone two expansions in its lifetime. In 1978, a free-standing 6-story parking ramp was built along the building’s North West side. The post office also expanded to a much larger degree in the late 1980s to accommodate the rising metro population and the need for greater efficiency. The Post Office remains in use today. However, the U.S. Postal Service has been flirting with the possibility of moving to the suburbs, thus presenting developers with a potential opportunity to reuse the building in an entirely different fashion.
The Minneapolis Post Office currently sits on the spot of the original Minneapolis post office which was built in 1854 and has since been destroyed. In 1931, President Hoover, under the Works Project Administration, appropriated $4 million for the construction of the Minneapolis Post Office (Koutsky, 2002). The architecture firm behind the building was Magney & Tusler Architects. The chief designer was Leon Eugene Arnal, who is better known for designing the Foshay Tower, among other famous buildings in the area. The popular Moderne Art Deco style building uses Mankato’s own Kasota limestone and St. Cloud black granite. The building achieves the vertical emphasis typical of the Art Deco style, despite being extremely horizontal, with a striking pattern of three-story window units with decorative relief panels (Koutsky, 2002). Approximately 500 to 700 local laborers and carpenters were summoned to construct the monumental building (Russell, 2003). When the building finally opened, amidst the great depression, then Postmaster General James Farley said about the Post Office, “Magnificent buildings are memorials of the strength and glory of a civilization” (Koutsky, 2002).
The lobby within the Minneapolis Post Office remains largely intact today. The lobby’s most prominent feature is a 365-foot-long bronze chandelier that runs along the entire length of the lobby. This astounding fixture is perhaps the longest in the world of its kind (Mack, 2004). The interior lobby also features inlaid terrazzo floors and many original bronze features including teller windows, freestanding mailing stations, and bulletin signs.
The first expansion of the Minneapolis Post Office took place in 1978, 43 years after its opening. The expansion came in the way of a free standing parking ramp. This six-story ramp, considered an eyesore by many, provided the post office with approximately 600 additional parking spaces (Mack, 2004). The largest expansion of the Minneapolis Post Office occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s when about 400,000 square feet of facility, maneuvering room and parking space was added. The Postal Service purchased 2.2 acres for $3.6 million in 1988 in the area between the existing post office and the Mississippi River Parkway (Schmickle, 1988). The expansion project, headed by local architectural firm Hammel, Green & Abrahamson Inc., planned to wrap the moderne façade seen on the front side of the building to the river side (Schmickle, 1988). The project also sought to enclose the truck staging area, which was previously open to the river. The goal of the project, said Roger Santelman, a principal at HGA, in 1988, was to “carry the general character of the original architecture around to the river side so that building architecturally looks like the front door to the city as you come across the bridges” (Schmickle, 1988). The project’s estimated cost, in 1988, was approximately $51.2 million (Smith, 1988).
When completed in 1992, the expansion added, in total, 189,000 square feet to the existing 389,000 square-foot mail facility. Furthermore, 190,000 square feet of parking and maneuvering room was added to the existing 296,600 square feet of parking and maneuvering space (Smith, 1988). The expansion was deemed necessary because mail passing through the facility had increased on average 5 to 7 percent annually since the early 1980’s (Smith, 1988). At the time, the U.S. Postal Service employed approximately 3500 people at the Minneapolis Post Office (Smith, 1988).
The large expansion of the Post Office is considered, by many, to be a large misstep. The project ended up taking two blocks of prime real estate along the new West River Parkway. The expansion, according to Mayor R.T. Rybak, was allowed based upon the agreement to permit public use of the loggia along the West River Parkway (Nigon, 2002). The Downtown Council had in mind to possibly use this space for a restaurant, bike rental, shop, or park space (Nigon, 2002). The loggia, with its arched arcade and walkway, remains unused by the public to this day.
Today and Future
The Minneapolis Post Office continues to play a pivotal role in the delivery and sorting of mail for the city of Minneapolis and the surrounding area. The building looks today much like it did in 1935. The bronze and terrazzo lobby remains largely intact while the art deco limestone exterior continues to command two blocks along 1st avenue. As of 2004, approximately 1800 people were working in the building (Mack, 2004).
The Post Office is a beloved civic monument. The complex is a part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Mack, 2004). State Historic Architect Charles Nelson stated in 2004, the building’s “integrity, presence and longtime public service make it very important” (Mack, 2004). In 2003, Mayor R. T. Rybak stated that “[The Minneapolis Post Office] is one of the great buildings in the city at one of the pivotal sites” (Russell, 2003). Kathleen Anderson, of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission in 2003, remarked, “That Post Office is one of my favorite buildings in the world. The lobby is gorgeous.” (Russell, 2003). The future of the Minneapolis post office remains uncertain. The Postal Service has not hidden its urge to move its Minneapolis operation into the suburbs where the facility could be more accommodating for trucks and more efficient. The U.S. Postal Service decided to move out of its St. Paul headquarters to Eagan, MN in 2009. A similar fate regarding the Minneapolis Post Office was considered, however it was not part of the most recent consolidation process (Brown, 2005).
Much of the talk surrounding the Minneapolis Post Office since the turn of the century has been concerning its potential for adaptive reuse. If it were to be reused the limestone façade and stunning lobby would likely be unscathed. Developers, in many ways would love to reuse this historic building for either condominiums or offices. The riverside location, proximity to downtown, and the novelty of living in a civic monument make the Post Office a fantastic opportunity for redevelopment. Currently the entire complex totals 1.5 million square feet, which is more than the IDS center (Mack, 2004). More than half of that total is parking space.
The Post Office is already considered by many to be a truly historic monument. It is a part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places and could possibly be under consideration to be on the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission’s list of local landmarks. The post office satisfies the following HPC criterion. (1) The 1935 Minneapolis Post Office was created during a historical time in this nation. Built during the Great Depression, with WPA money, the Minneapolis Post Office also embodies the modern art deco style architecture famous in this era (4). If adaptive reuse of the post office were considered, the preservation of the lobby and exterior façade is of the utmost importance. The northwest parking garage and southeast wing from the 1992 expansion could be demolished without consequence. The remainder of the interior, outside of the lobby could and would be permitted to be reworked.
Memories and stories
Brown, C. (2005, June 7 ). St. Paul Cheers Move of Post Office. StarTribune , p. 2005.
Koutsky, L. S. (2002, September 3). The Main Post Office, 100 S. 1st St. Downtown Journal , p. 1.
Mack, L. (2004, March 1). A What-If Scenario for the Main Post Office. StarTribune , p. 2.
Nigon, E. (2002, August 2002). For Sale: Weed Park Condos? Downtown Journal , p. 3.
Russell, S. (2003, December 15 ). Downtown's Ultimate Forwarding Address. Downtown Journal , p. 3.
Schmickle, S. (1988, January 12). Postal Service Buys Land to Expand Along Downtown Riverfront. StarTribune , p. 2.
Smith, R. G. (1988, August 6). Downtown Minneapolis Post Office to be Expanded. StarTribune , p. 1.