Back to Chicago’s Main Post Offices
Post Office and Custom House
Life Span: 1855-1871
Location: NW corner of Dearborn and Monroe
Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1855
The New Post Office and Custom House
We have prepared the following description of the new Post Office and Custom House from the drawings which have been put out from Washington.
The building will front on Monroe street, its front line being twelve feet from said street and its east end fifteen feet from Dearborn street. The dimensions will be 85 by 60 feet, and three stories high besides the basement. In the basement there will be a packing room, for the Post Office, 79 feet long and 35 feet wide, besides fuel and furnace rooms, wash rooms, & c.
The Post Office will occupy the whole of the entrance story. The main room will be 53 feet long and 43 feet wide. On the Dearborn street side of this will be the Postmaster’s room, the Route Agent’s room, the Ladies’ Delivery room, and a Vestibule, and passage leading to the boxes. The grand entrance will be from Monroe street, and will open on a Vestibule. On entering this vestibule, the spectator will find himself in front of SEVENTY FEET OF BOXES, in the centre of which is the General Delivery.
A spacious hall runs through the center of the second story. On one side of this is the General Business Room of the Custom House, 45 by 20 feet; the Collector’s Room 17 by 30; the room of the Inspector of Steamboats 17 by 20. On the other side, is the room of the Post Office Clerk’s 45 by 20, the Post Master’s Room 17 by 20, and the room of the District Attorney, 17 by 20.
The United States’ Court Room occupies nearly the whole of the third story, being a large apartmenrt 55 by 45 feet. The four corners of this story are occupied by the Library and Grand Jury Room, 17 by 20 feet, the Marshal’s Room the same size; the Judge’s Room 12 by 20 feet, and the room of the Clerk of the Court, the same size.
The style of the building is Roman. The front elevation presents a flight of six broad steps, 52 feet long, in front of the door of entrance. There are windows on each side of these, one of them lighting the Grand Jury Room and the other the public stairs to the Custom House and Court Room.
The second story front presents five windows, and the third story front the same number.
The building is to be constructed of stone, faced with the white marble from the quarry at Athens.
The outside doors and window shutters are to be of iron.
The flooring of the whole building are to be composed of small segmental arches of hard burned brick work, turned from wrought iron beams resting upon the exterior walls, and upon girders supported by cast iron columns, the whole covered with tile. The ceiling of the upper story is to be composed of iron beams and brick arches.
The entrance hall and vestibule to the post office, the vestibule and entrance to the custom house, and the entrance and passages to the court rooms and its offices are to be paved with the best quality 2 inch marble, or German tile in tessellated manner, dark and light alternating.
A thorough system of drainage and sewerage is provided for.
The stairways are to be of wrought and cast iron with a mahogany handrail.
The fire places are to be made of fire-brick, and to have marble mantles worth $30 each.
There will be in the cellar one or two furnaces of sufficient power and capacity to warm the entire building.
The roof is to be of galvanized, corrugated iron.
The Post Office Building
Artist: Louis Kurz
Publisher: Jevne & Almini
Location: North-west corner of Dearborn and Monroe streets
Published: February 1866
This is one of the best buildings erected in the West by the Government, for the accommodation of its officers. It is built of Illinois marble, and presents a finished and handsome appearance. It is erected at the north-west corner of Dearborn and Monroe streets, the main front being on Dearborn street. The building is three stories high, and has a very fine basement. The main floor and basement are occupied exclusively by the Post Office; the second story by the Collector of Customs, the Public Depositary, the Collector of Internal Revenue, Steamboat Inspector, United States Marshal, United States Commissioner, and by clerks of the Post Office. The Hon. Luther Haven is Collector and Depositary, and T. J. Kinsella Deputy Collector. The third story is occupied by the Federal Courts, Clerks, and District Attorney, with rooms for grand and profit jurors.
To the left of the Government buildings may be seen the Monroe-street entrance to the new marble block of Benjamin F. Lombard, Esq., a building nearly equal in size to the Post Office building, built of the same stone and finished in the best style. It is occupied by the Fourth National Bank of Chicago, of which Mr. Lombard is President, and by various insurance and banking companies, brokers, dentists, and other professional business men. To the right is the building known as “Reynolds’ Block,”owned by the Hon. Melville W. Fuller. E. G. Hawley, Esq., represents the Reynolds estate. It extends north to Madison street.
The site on which the building is erected was formally occupied by Doctor C. V. Dyer, as a residence. It was purchased by the Government in 1855, at which time an appropriation was made by Congress for the erection of the Post Office. The original plan was a building eighty-five feet on Dearborn street, and sixty feet on Monroe street, and the contract was awarded upon that plan on the 25th of October, 1855, the cost being eighty-four thousand dollars. Upon the earnest appeals of the citizens, Congress enlarged the appropriation, and the exterior dimensions of the building were extended to one hundred and fifteen feet on Dearborn street, and sixty-five feet on Monroe street. This was not satisfactory, however; and in 1856-7, Congress still further increased the appropriation, and the dimensions were increased to their present figures—one hundred and sixty feet on Dearborn street, and seventy-eight feet on Monroe street. These changes caused great delay in building, and nothing beyond the excavation of the basement was done until July, 1857, when the building was actively commenced. The original contractors —Jones and Bruff, of Rochester, New York —died during the succeeding winter, and were succeeded in the contract by L. A. Ward, of the same place. The building was completed and ready for occupancy in the autumn of 1860, and cost, completed, two hundred and forty-three thousand dollars. The plans of the building were prepared by Ammi B, Young, of the Treasury Department, and Colonel John , H. Eaton, of Chicago, was in February, 1857, appointed Superintendent of Construction.
The following were the persons engaged upon this building, besides the two we have named:
The Post Office business of any city generally gives a fair basis for an estimate of its comparative prosperity. The general postal business of the Chicago Post Office is only exceeded by that of New York city, and in merely local business it ranks third—New York and Philadelphia only equalling it. The number of clerks employed is one hundred and six. The executive officers of the Post Office are —Samuel Hoard, Postmaster; A. S. Reynolds, Assistant; T. L. Holbrook, Chief Clerk; S. F. Hoard, Cashier; George B. Armstrong, Special Agent.
James W. Sheahan, Esq.
Photographer: John Carbutt
John Carbutt #68
Custom House & Post Office
Reynold’s Block can be seen past the Post Office.
This elegant and imposing building, situated on the corner of Dearborn and Monroe streets, was erected by the General Government in 1859. It is constructed of marble and iron, and is probably one of the most expensive public buildings in the city.
The building was erected by the Government as a Custom House, and the upper portions of it arc occupied as such in connection with the United States Courts Offices of Internal Revenue, and United States Marshal.
The Post-Office is open during the following hours:
From April 1st to November 1st, 7 A. M. till 7½ P. M.
From November 1st to April 1st, 8 A.M. till 7½ P.M.; on Sundays, from 8.30 A. M. till 10.15 A. M.
A large number of street letter-boxes are stationed throughout the city, from which collections are made five times daily.
Custom House and Post Office
John Carbutt #68
Ruins of the Custom House and Post Office.
Post Office and Custom House
NW corner of Dearborn and Monroe