The Old Post Office has been the tallest building on Pennsylvania Avenue since it was completed in 1899.
At 315 feet, the tower of the building rises high above its surroundings in the Federal Triangle area.
The building is owned by the U.S. Government. It was used as the Post Office headquarters until 1914, then was used as various government offices for most of the next hundred years.
In 2013, the General Services Administration accepted a bid from the Trump Organization for a 60-year lease to turn the building into a hotel. The Trump Organization intends to sell the lease, and the GSA has recently approved a lease transfer to the CGI holding company that will turn it into a Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
These photos were taken in the 2013-2016 period, just before it became a hotel, and show the faded glory of the old building.
One of the most striking features was the checkerboard flooring:
The building has nine floors of corridors surrounding a central atrium:
The corridors have ornate detailing on the columns:
Looking up, there is a glass ceiling above the atrium. This glass ceiling was added during a 1983 renovation.
At the right angle, you can see the top of the tower through the glass ceiling.
The National Park Service administers the tower of the building. Free tours of the tower are available – they have been halted during the pandemic but are likely to re-open soon. You can either get off the elevator at the top floor, or two floors below and walk up the interior tower stairs:
Once in the tower, there’s an amazing view of D.C. from all four sides of the tower.
When you are in the tower, you can see the shadow that the top of the tower casts on nearby buildings.
The inner workings of the clock are visible in the tower:
The clock mechanism casts a fascinating shadow on the walls of the tower:
And a look back when the tower became a stage
In 2012, the Kennedy Center sponsored a dance performance on the tower by Bandaloop, a dance collective that combines climbing skills and aerial dancing. While a crowd of thousands looked up from Pennsylvania Avenue, the dancers came out of the top windows of the tower and danced down it, while other dancers emerged from different windows.
While we think of the building as such a prominent landmark in D.C., it was almost torn down twice – during the 1920’s when Federal Triangle was built, and during the 1970’s as part of a plan for a revised Federal Triangle. The building was designed in the Romanesque Revival style, which became unpopular almost immediately after the building was completed, and there was constant pressure to tear it down and replace it with a building in the neo-classical style of the other buildings in Federal Triangle. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places and safe from demolition.
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