Post Offices: 19th Century vs. Today

Interesting how different post offices started to look, when we compare those magnificent 19th century buildings with today's ugliness and simplicity. Some think that the older buildings were assigned to be post offices just by the nature of already being there. One way or the other, there is a distinctive difference between now and "back then".

Today's average Post Office
post office.jpg


19th Century Post Offices
(regulars of the day)

Toronto Post Office
Ottawa_post_office_in_19th_century.jpg

Toronto Post Office - 19th Century


Washington DC Post Office
Construction began in 1892, and the building was complete in 1899.
Washington, D.C. post office.jpg

Old Post Office (Washington, D.C.)

NYC Post Office
NYC_post_office.jpg

Daytonian in Manhattan: The Lost 1880 City Hall Post Office

London General Post Office
The_Post_Office_in_St_Martin_le_Grand_by_Thomas_Shepherd_(late_1820s).jpg

General Post Office

Bremen Main Post Office Building
640px-Reichspost_Bremen_in_about_1865_it_says.jpg

Bremen Main Post Office Building

Bombay (Mumbai) - General Post Office
Between 1850s to 1870s
Bombay (Mumbai) - General Post Office - 19th Century Photograph.jpg

Bombay (Mumbai) - General Post Office - 19th Century

General Post Office - Calcutta
Between 1850s to 1870s
General Post Office - Calcutta (Kolkata) - Mid 19th Century (Second View).jpg

General Post Office - Calcutta (Kolkata) - Mid 19th Century

General Post Office, Dublin
General Post Office, Dublin.jpg

Late 19th Century General Post Office, Dublin

Former Post Office, Ghent, Belgium
1898-the-post-office-belgium.jpg

1898 The Post Hotel opens in an Old Post Office Building in Ghent, Belgium


KD: Obviously this architecture is not Post Office specific. In general, this is just how they built "back then". At least, that's the official position. They built like that and did not care about economics, logistics and other such non-sense.



Please contribute your own images of the 19th century Post Offices, and share your opinion on the above. (Post Offices only please)
 
The Dublin GPO was built between 1814 and 1818. The original plans are in the archives of the Royal Institute of Irish Architects (call number: Murray Collection 93/46.661), this includes original floorplans and detailed designs for the stonework. They also hold bills and receipts for the labour and materials, as well as invitations and catering invoices for the grand opening. References of the laying of the foundation stone and the opening can be found in the records of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's archive held by the National Archive of Ireland. There are also at least 50 newspaper articles that make reference to the construction and opening of the new GPO from the 1814-18 period.

Screenshot 2021-02-16 at 11.48.38.jpg


GPO_1.jpg
 
I believe they have the original blueprint design paperwork when I see it.

If they have something similar to this, it ain’t it.

So far, I have only seen the paperwork produced after the fact,
 
I believe they have the original blueprint design paperwork when I see it.

If they have something similar to this, it ain’t it.

So far, I have only seen the paperwork produced after the fact,
Blueprints weren't commonly used in Ireland until the late-19th century or early-20th, so I wouldn't expect to see them in 1814. I'm attaching an example of the kind of design drawings that do exist. This is an 1814 design drawing. It is an early version, produced before then fact, and the configuration of the rooms on the east is different from the final arrangement. These changes are reflected in revised drawings from 1816 and 1817 (which unfortunately I didn't photograph) which show the final configuration of the rooms the way they were actually built.

And aside from the design plans what about all the newspaper references to the construction of the building, the celebration of the laying of the foundation stone, and the receipts for labour and supplies?

GPO ground floor floorplan 1814 (unrevised).jpg
 
We have a lot of complex buildings in the world, by far predating 1814. Thinking that those (including the 1814 one in question) were constructed using fire escape looking floor plans is somewhat outside of my understanding of the construction process. Drawing such plans as well as elements of decor does not require an architect or a structural engineer.

That said, I do believe that we will eventually find the true paperwork produced by the original engineers. That is if it ever existed on paper.

If you have a link to the scans of the originals, please share.

As far as having newspaper articles and other texts. This is a part of the puzzle. We have tons of texts talking about Victorian Balls during the age of photography, but we do not have a single photograph of the said balls. How is that possible?
There are a few things we have texts for, but once we start looking for some solid visual confirmations, we tend to come up short.
 
I'm not sure why you are so cynical about floorplans. I have worked with contemporary architects on large building projects and most of the drawings you receive are floorplans, elevations, and cross-sections. They may not require architects, but they are definitely the kind of drawings that architects still produce.

I don't have a link to the originals, like the vast vast majority of archival material they have not been digitised. I have seen the files, but they weren't what I was looking for at the time so I didn't bother to photograph them. You can find them in hardcopy at the archives of the Royal Institute of Irish Architects (call number: Murray Collection 93/46.661).

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make about the photographs of victorian balls. The building is Georgian and predates photography by decades.
 
I know that there was no photography in 1814, at least officially.

The point was that texts talking about balls exist, but photographs do not. There was plenty of equipment to snap a few photos of the balls:
That brings up an issue of an evidentiary mismatch between texts and photographic evidence.

Therefore we can rely on texts to a certain degree only, for texts are much easier to fake than photographs. And if texts cannot be 100% reliable in 1870s, who’s there yo say that we can rely on the texts from 1810s?

And in this particular Dublin GPO case, when the only easily obtainable architect picture looks like this, I will always approach with caution.
2C409152-AEFE-4671-B016-BD694A2229D4.jpeg
 
Therefore we can rely on texts to a certain degree only, for texts are much easier to fake than photographs. And if texts cannot be 100% reliable in 1870s, who’s there yo say that we can rely on the texts from 1810s?
I'm sorry, but this claim doesn't make any sense to me. Faking photographs has been common since the early days of photography. Creating webs of interlocking texts: from city maps, to the lord lieutenant's day books and speeches, to newspaper articles from multiple different papers, to architects drawings, to receipts and invoices from suppliers and builders, to bills of lading for the ships that transported the Portland stone form Devon, to the registration of those ships with the Registrar of General Shipping and Customs House, to the other records of the architect and the building companies' other jobs. Then there is the report of the Wide Streets Commission advising the extension of Sackville Street through the houses that used to flank Drogheda Street to create space for the new GPO (and other documents about the purchase and demolition of these houses); the files on the design and construction of Nelson's Column outside the GPO; and the Post Office's files, and public debate in the newspapers, about the move from College Green to the new building and whether it would be finished in time; and a host of other documents. And all that is just for one building. The idea that it is harder to fake a photo then to construct interwoven document trails like this, containing consistent information (eg that the Iona was not listed carrying cotton from Virginia while also carrying stone from Devon), for entire cities (including many extant, remodelled, and demolished buildings) is baffling to me.
And in this particular Dublin GPO case, when the only easily obtainable architect picture looks like this, I will always approach with caution.
Incidentally, I've been staring at this portrait for a while, but I can't see what's wrong with it.
 
Last edited:
That’s why I said that texts are a part of the puzzle. And it’s up to an individual observer to take, or not to take things at face value.

We have a handful of architects responsible for designing most of the historic structures. What today is being done by a bureau, back in the day was done by single individuals. We do not ask questions how they managed the workload, we simply accept this claim as a matter of fact. Really, who cares if a guy designed half of a city? And who cares that 5600 buildings could be built in 1889-90 Seattle by a company that was not even founded yet?

Meanwhile, looking into the individual architects can often provide enough grounds for asking proper questions. Who was this Francis Johnson that allegedly designed this Dublin GPO? Where did he receive his education? What degree did he have? What else did he design, how many things did he design. What do we know about the family of such a prominent gentleman? Did he have any children? Based on what I’ve seen with other such architects, he most likely had no children, for a certain group of architects formed a pattern by not having children. These architects came, served their intended purpose, and left.

Oh, and what was his “collection of curiosities” mentioned in the wiki article?

And you are absolutely right about faked photographs. Most of the US Civil War photography are recreations presented as real events. We have too many lies replacing whatever they were meant to be replacing.

Just like I was always saying, of course the building had to be built to be standing, and any stand alone instance is always easy to justify. @jd755 is good at investigating structures like this.

As far as webs of interlocking texts go. It’s rather simple in my opinion. I did not want to bring COVID into this blog, but I can’t think of a better example of how the narrative is being written in real life. Of course, it depends on an individual stance as far as the alleged coronavirus pandemic goes. Based on my observations, I happen to think that the pandemic is a bunch of baloney, for its evidence only exists in the MSM. Being a first responder, I have seen enough during 2020-21 to base my opinion on things I see, and I can compare things I see to the ones we are being shown on TV and in the press. To say the least, things do not match. Yet, 100 years from now, people reading webs of interlocking texts and images will have no doubt that in 2020, the world dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, after dodging this bullet the world became slightly different, but this part was excluded from the web of the interlocking texts.
Incidentally, I've been staring at this portrait for a while, but I can't see what's wrong with it.
I will let someone else answer this, for I start thinking that you are a troll.

8338A330-B6E1-4BB3-B5BE-52C3CA828E0F.jpeg
 
That’s why I said that texts are a part of the puzzle. And it’s up to an individual observer to take, or not to take things at face value.

We have a handful of architects responsible for designing most of the historic structures. What today is being done by a bureau, back in the day was done by single individuals. We do not ask questions how they managed the workload, we simply accept this claim as a matter of fact. Really, who cares if a guy designed half of a city? And who cares that 5600 buildings could be built in 1889-90 Seattle by a company that was not even founded yet?

Meanwhile, looking into the individual architects can often provide enough grounds for asking proper questions. Who was this Francis Johnson that allegedly designed this Dublin GPO? Where did he receive his education? What degree did he have? What else did he design, how many things did he design. What do we know about the family of such a prominent gentleman? Did he have any children? Based on what I’ve seen with other such architects, he most likely had no children, for a certain group of architects formed a pattern by not having children. These architects came, served their intended purpose, and left.

Oh, and what was his “collection of curiosities” mentioned in the wiki article?

And you are absolutely right about faked photographs. Most of the US Civil War photography are recreations presented as real events. We have too many lies replacing whatever they were meant to be replacing.

Just like I was always saying, of course the building had to be built to be standing, and any stand alone instance is always easy to justify. @jd755 is good at investigating structures like this.

As far as webs of interlocking texts go. It’s rather simple in my opinion. I did not want to bring COVID into this blog, but I can’t think of a better example of how the narrative is being written in real life. Of course, it depends on an individual stance as far as the alleged coronavirus pandemic goes. Based on my observations, I happen to think that the pandemic is a bunch of baloney, for its evidence only exists in the MSM. Being a first responder, I have seen enough during 2020-21 to base my opinion on things I see, and I can compare things I see to the ones we are being shown on TV and in the press. To say the least, things do not match. Yet, 100 years from now, people reading webs of interlocking texts and images will have no doubt that in 2020, the world dodged a bullet. Unfortunately, after dodging this bullet the world became slightly different, but this part was excluded from the web of the interlocking texts.

I will let someone else answer this, for I start thinking that you are a troll.
I'm not a troll. I'm genuinely interested in what you are saying, I just happen to know a fair amount about the GPO and am irritated to see it taken out of context like this. I am also concerned that it shows a slackness in your research that undermines the believability of your entire position. Like, if you have missed the mark so widely about this should I trust you about anything else?

'what was his “collection of curiosities”'
The collection consisted of paintings, bronzes, china, statuary and other valuable works of art. The catalogue is in the National Library of Ireland and much of the collection is still in The Royal Hibernian Academy.

'Where did he receive his education? What degree did he have? What else did he design, how many things did he design. What do we know about the family of such a prominent gentleman? Did he have any children?'
He was educated at The Royal Classical School in Armagh and then apprenticed to Samuel Sprout, who was the chief architect for the Wide Streets Commission which redesigned much of Dublin in the late-18th and early-19th centuries. He did not have a degree because he was an architect in the early 19th century, he was apprenticed. We know a fair amount about his family, attached is an article about his life and work which has an amount of information about the family. He did not have children, but was close with his nephews who also went into the building trade.

It would be great if you could clarify whether you think that several shiploads of Portland stone were actually shipped to Ireland, and, if so, what happened to it, or, if not, are you suggesting that several private companies and government agencies conspired to create archives of tedious paperwork, ranging from bills of lading to account books and receipts, about goods that were never transported and then kept those archives closed to the public for the best part of two centuries?

Finally, I found two further portraits if they help at all. Is the issue with the hand I the waistcoat? I'm genuinely confused.

Screenshot 2021-02-16 at 19.55.16.jpg
Screenshot 2021-02-16 at 19.55.29.jpg
 

Attachments

  • Francis Johnston.pdf
    2.1 MB · Views: 631
Interesting how different post offices started to look, when we compare those magnificent 19th century buildings with today's ugliness and simplicity. Some think that the older buildings were assigned to be post offices just by the nature of already being there. One way or the other, there is a distinctive difference between now and "back then".

Today's average Post Office
View attachment 390

19th Century Post Offices
(regulars of the day)

Toronto Post Office
View attachment 391

Toronto Post Office - 19th Century


Washington DC Post Office
Construction began in 1892, and the building was complete in 1899.
View attachment 392
Old Post Office (Washington, D.C.)

NYC Post Office
View attachment 393
Daytonian in Manhattan: The Lost 1880 City Hall Post Office

London General Post Office
View attachment 394
General Post Office

Bremen Main Post Office Building
View attachment 395
Bremen Main Post Office Building

Bombay (Mumbai) - General Post Office
Between 1850s to 1870s
View attachment 396
Bombay (Mumbai) - General Post Office - 19th Century

General Post Office - Calcutta
Between 1850s to 1870s
View attachment 397
General Post Office - Calcutta (Kolkata) - Mid 19th Century

General Post Office, Dublin
View attachment 398
Late 19th Century General Post Office, Dublin

Former Post Office, Ghent, Belgium
View attachment 399
1898 The Post Hotel opens in an Old Post Office Building in Ghent, Belgium


KD: Obviously this architecture is not Post Office specific. In general, this is just how they built "back then". At least, that's the official position. They built like that and did not care about economics, logistics and other such non-sense.



Please contribute your own images of the 19th century Post Offices, and share your opinion on the above. (Post Offices only please)

What if post means "after"? Maybe they handled post reset questions, and people knew right where to go because of the pre reset architecture? Also given that pre reset technology seems to have included advanced communication devices, such as "magic mirrors", maybe this was called post to remind people that this is how you communicate "post" reset? And that way of communicating? Snail mail.
 
So very interesting indeed. I think we all too often overlook the etymology of words which we utter every day.
 
[..] Please contribute your own images of the 19th century Post Offices, and share your opinion on the above. (Post Offices only please)
The following photo image shows the "middle avant-corps of the main facade of the Frankfurt post office", opened 1891. First known publication year of this photo image 1898, photographer unknown.
Mittelbau_der_Hauptfassade_vom_neuen_Posthaus_in_Frankfurt,_Tafel_35,_Kick_Jahrgang_II.jpg

Published in 1898, this photo image shows the side view of this frontage towards the road Zeil, by photographer and author Max Junghändel.

Frankfurt_Am_Main-Max_Junghaendel-FFMANDN-15-Zeil.jpg

Hauptpost Frankfurt am Main – Wikipedia
  • "The main post office had its own connection to the Frankfurt am Main tramway. The postal streetcar was operated from here. The access track to the main post office branched off on the Zeil and led through the portal of the post office building into the inner courtyard. There was a turning loop with an overtaking track. Also in the inner courtyard was a separate two-track car shed for six railcars with its own workshop. A total of 460 meters of track were laid out in the inner courtyard." (dto.)
Before stating my opinion, some more historical background as purported in Wikipedia:
  • "The Thurn-und-Taxis Post was a private postal service and the successor to the Imperial Reichspost of the Holy Roman Empire. The Thurn-und-Taxis Post was operated by the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis between 1806 and 1867. The company was headquartered in Regensburg from its creation in 1806 until 1810 when it relocated to Frankfurt am Main where it remained until 1867. [..] Members of the Rothschild banking dynasty were involved in funding parts of the system in the last years of the Napoleonic Wars and the immediate years that followed. [..]" (Wikipedia (english): Thurn-und-Taxis Post)
  • "The Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt remained the seat of the General Post Office Directorate until 1867." (Wikipedia (german): Palais Thurn und Taxis, compare to: Wikipedia (english): Palais Thurn und Taxis)
  • "In 1894, the Reichstag decided to acquire the Palais Thurn und Taxis, since telegraphy and, from 1881, telephony had been added to the tasks, so that a different basis was now given for the further execution of the courtyard buildings of the post office." (dto.)
  • "However, the Palais Thurn und Taxis proved unsuitable for postal purposes and was therefore sold on to the city of Frankfurt in 1905, which housed a museum for ethnology." (dto.)
So, PTB are telling us: to have a suitable area for buildings needed to managed the "postal challenges of the late 19th century", this "Hauptpost Frankfurt am Main" was erected, by fusing together two former hotels, instead of using the Palais Thurn und Taxis, which was considered unsuitable.

Who managed the postal challenges of the 19th century?
  • "On 1 August 1808, the Kingdom of Bavaria placed the postal system under its government's control. The Grand Duchy of Baden followed suit on 2 August 1811. After Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg ceded Regensburg to Bavaria in 1810, the House of Thurn and Taxis relocated the headquarters of its postal operations to Frankfurt am Main." (Wikipedia (english): Thurn-und-Taxis Post)
This is the beginning of what nowadays would be called a public-private partnership.
  • "Under the German Federal Act, the postal systems of the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the duchies of Nassau, Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Meiningen, and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the principalities of Reuss and Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, the free cities of Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck, the principalities of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Lippe-Detmold and Schaumburg-Lippe were placed under the now privately operated Thurn-und-Taxis Post. The seat of the post's headquarters in Frankfurt am Main was confirmed on 20 May 1816. [..] On 27 July 1819, the Kingdom of Württemberg transferred the ownership and management of its state postal system to the Thurn-und-Taxis Post due to its inability to pay its compensation owed to the House of Thurn and Taxis." (dto.)
Using this "public-private partnership" Thurn und Taxis post executed a hostile takeover of all relevant postal services in the german kingdoms, duchies, free cities and completed it within 21 years.
  • "After the Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War, the Prussians occupied the Free City of Frankfurt and the Thurn-und-Taxis Post's headquarters. The Thurn-und-Taxis Post transferred its postal system contracts to the Prussian state for the sum of three million Thaler after a contract was signed and ratified on 28 January 1867. The handover of control of the postal system took place on 1 July 1867. The last Post Director General of the Thurn-und-Taxis Post in Frankfurt was Eduard von Schele zu Schelenburg." (dto.)
In 1867 the Rothe Haus, which would later be fused together in order to make place for the new "Hauptpost" building, became the residence of the Prussian Chief Postal Directorate, which understood itself not as a private company anymore, but as a federal post service.
  • "The Rothe Haus, located on the Zeil, had been the residence of the Prussian Oberpostdirektion since 1867. It was re-clad in 1879 and combined with the neighboring Weinhaus Drexel and Russischer Hof into a single post office building between 1887 and 1892."
Opinion:

When reading and re-reading these "historical" records I can't get rid of this feeling of betrayal, that sometimes manifests as a weird smell. How could they start making plans for this "Hauptpost" already in 1893, considering the "challenges of communications" of telegraphy (1876) and telephony (1881), and then in 1894 acquire the old Palais, which then turns out to be unsuitable and gets sold?

What if, beginning in 1808, if we stay with the given year numbers, not the postal service was taken over by the state, but instead the postal service was taking over the domains and territories of the complete hierarchy of the german empire?

The private part of this partnership not only successfully executed the mission, but also sold the resulting organization back to the public principal for an insanely high amount of money, just to invest this money again into something else.

I feel this is a major precursor to the first world war and an also a major structural characteristic of the third catastrophe according to Vilém Flusser:
Flusser presents a division of the history of humankind into three great catastrophes: humanization, civilization and a third catastrophe, still nameless. This last one that is occurring now will turn humankind back to nomadism. Wind, the desert, granules and emptiness become again decisive categories for the communicative behavior of humankind, already perceivable through photography and technical images. Things and their materiality lose in value, non-things and their immateriality gain in value. (Source: non-things | Flusser Studies)
Postal service, telecommunications and lastly, the Internet are, strictly speaking, means to manage non-things (some more on what things and non-things are supposed to mean here: Link).

Those Thurn und Taxis guys and whoever helped them took all the things of this time, in exchange for the duty of dealing with all the non-things (telecommunications) of the state in a kind of robbery takeover, then built this kind of narcisstic palace of beauty, which also had the 2nd purpose of serving as the headquarter of the main hostile takeover organization.

Also, in this "opinion" part, as my last sentence: I would like to point out a piece of literature: "The Crying of Lot 49", a 1966 novel by Thomas Pynchon (W.A.S.T.E. == "we await silently tristero's empire").
 
Last edited:

Similar articles

Back
Top