Wednesday, November 18, 2015

10 fun facts about the Old Post Office Tower Building (Washington D.C.)

The Old Post Office building, part of the Federal Triangle in Washington D.C., is one of my favorite structures in Washington. It used to house some eateries and souvenir shops, along with the elevator up to the bell tower, which is run by the National Park Service (NPS).

Today, that's all changed.


The Trump Organization has been steadily renovating the historic building after it was granted a long-term lease in 2013. If you’ve been downtown over the past few years, you’d have seen the construction barriers up. 

Trump Hotel Washington DC

For today’s post, I thought it would be fun to look at some facts about this historic structure. What its future holds now will likely be very different from its past.

10 fun facts about the Old Post Office Tower Building


1. Construction of the Old Post Office took several years. The build began in 1892 and was completed in 1899. It was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, who co-designed the Georgia State Capitol and many other notable buildings found in the United States.

2. The building was intended to be a post office and served in this capacity until the early 1930s when the agency relocated. 

3. The Old Post Office stands at 315 feet (nine stories) and its tower makes the building the third tallest in Washington D.C. (Not quite as tall as the Washington Monument, but still great views from the top!)

View of the Old Post Office. The building is much larger than this photo makes it appear since I couldn't get the shot in its entirety.

4. The structure is made of granite and set upon iron and steel; it is the first steel-framed structure to be built in Washington.

5. The Bells of Congress are housed in the building’s tower, in total, there are 10 bells. They were a Bicentennial gift from the Ditchley Foundation (located in Great Britain) and are replicas of the ones found at London’s Westminster Abbey. They were not installed in the tower until 1983.

6. This massive building was slated to be demolished just a few decades after it was built. The first consideration to raze it was back in 1934, but it was too expensive to do during the Great Depression. It was later slated to be demolished again, this time in 1970. Congress had even approved the measure. 

Another view of the Old Post Office Tower Building, which better illustrates how large this building really is.
7. The official name of this building was renamed to be the Nancy Hanks Center. Nancy Hanks, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, was the woman who spearheaded a campaign to fight for the Old Post Office’s survival. She succeeded. In 1973, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and got a renovation. The name of the building was changed in 1983.

8. The Old Post Office Tower Building was used for multiple purposes over the years. After The Trump Organization leased it, a number of small eateries (think “mall”) and souvenir shops in what was known as the Old Post Office Pavilion were closed in 2014. There was also a small stage in the food court where live entertainment took place. The other space inside the building had also been used for federal offices and as storage. (I remember riding the elevator up the bell tower and seeing all the boxes lined against some of the walls in various rooms.)

I was standing in the tower looking down when I took this photo. You can see parts of the former Pavilion shops and eateries.

9. Come 2016, this iconic building will become a luxury hotel run by The Trump Organization. The company has signed a 60-year lease. According to a March 2016 announcement, the hotel anticipates a fall opening. (Edit: The Trump hotel had a "soft" opening in September 2016. The tower also had a "soft" re-opening in early spring 2017).

10. Visitors are still able to take the NPS-run tour and ride the elevator and, in this respect, history can be actively shared. NPS will still run the clock tower itself (my understanding is the elevator/tower is not part of the Trump lease). Although the future of the bells being rung is still unknown.
 

Old Post Office elevator

The Old Post Office Tower Building is located at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. 

Thanks for reading! For more history about this historic building, I invite you to my earlier post that has more detail and photos.

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