Thursday, September 07, 2006

Federal Architecture From Depression Era

Officially, it's a U.S. Post Office. On the top floor is a federal district courthouse. Of course, this is not the Prescott post office -- that's over on Schemmer Drive, just off Miller Valley Road. Not in the middle of town, which is where the main post office ought to be, in any proper city.

It took an outcry from the downtown merchants, the city and county fathers to keep this historic post office open. Built in 1931, the structure is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. When the city outgrew this facility, the Miller Valley PO was was built in the early 90s; the feds had planned to turn the Cortez Street building into an federal office and court house building. Thank goodness sanity prevailed -- I have a box there. Also, it's a lot more convenient for all those tourists to stamp and mail their post cards.

The windows are pretty grand, although these around on the Cortez Street side may need some TLC of the kind that cost Uncle $166 Gs up at the third-floor court house. According to the Courier, "officials knew they had to do something after a window fell apart in a judge's hands." However, that kind of money bought a real restoration rather than some mismatched or slap-dash repairs.

I wonder how long it has been since modern post offices bothered with decorative brass boxes...

...and drawers (for those with a serious flow of mail.) I vote in favor of decorative brass over brushed stainless steel any day.

It's curious -- when I was in my impressionable 20s (and this building was about the same age), I was quite caught up in Mies van de Rohe chic. I would have poo-pooed the Goodwin Street post office as hopelessly mundane and outdated.

Chicago, long proud of its architectural heritage, boasted a couple of stark, "structurally honest", clean-lined apartment buildings by Mies. By the time we left the big city in the early 80s, those monuments to modernity were looking a lot tattier than this local building looks today, nearly 30 years later. It's much more interesting, too. Maybe that's because Mies would never have used decorative brass.


Andrew Johnson-Schmit said...

Hi J,

I agree totally with you. I love that building, from the photos in the lobby of its construction to the little details that wear so well - the brass, the windows over the service counter.

I'm originally from Chicago (Northside - Rogers Park) and I can remember walking from the beautiful old Rookery Building to the tired-looking modern steel boxes of the Federal Plaza and wondering "nobody thought what these would look like as they aged?"

'Course, when Frank Lloyd Wright re-did the lobby of the Rookery in the '20's someone might have said the same thing.

Lane said...

The brass has a greek...or is it Roman flair...seems to hold up over time, and through many years of mail retrieving abuse, no doubt!

Lane said...

And speaking of old and spiffy (no, I'm not speaking of you, but I COULD be!)how 'bout getting some ornamental metal shots of the cool stuff in your lower level? Got to be some great nooks and nick and squiggldy-doos down there!

Granny J said...

Andrew-- Rogers Park, oy vey! I recall those absolutely gorgeous old 7 & 8 room apartments in that neighborhood. Took census in RP a million years ago -- discovered that there was a tiny wedge of land up against the Northwestern RR that was majority Luxembourgian! The backbone of the flat janitors' union, they were.

Lane-- as for pix of what's in the lower level -- afraid I'd scare away my readers....

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