Inside the Transformation of the Bronx General Post Office, 558 Grand Concourse

Bronx General Post Office. All photographs by the authorBronx General Post Office. All photographs by the author

Sometime next spring, the landmarked Bronx General Post Office, located in the borough’s Concourse Village neighborhood, will start a new life as retail, office space, and a restaurant. Interior demolition work is underway and we got a peak inside last week, with Brendan Murray, vice president at Hollister Construction Services, and he pointed out an incredibly creepy aspect of the building’s history.

Bronx General Post Office Cornerstone

The post office, located at the northeast corner with East 149th Street, was completed in 1937. It was designed by Thomas Harlan Ellett. Its exterior was designated an individual landmark by the city in 1975. Interior landmark designations, including the 13 New Deal-era murals, followed in 2013.

Bronx General Post Office main hall, 1938. Credit: Museum of the City of New York via LPC

Bronx General Post Office main hall, 1938. Credit: Museum of the City of New York via LPC

Bronx General Post Office main hall, 2013. Credit: LPC

Bronx General Post Office main hall, 2013. Credit: LPC

In 2014, Young Woo & Associates purchased the building for $19 million. They, along with the Bristol Group, are transforming the structure into a mix of functions. There will be a market, retail, and a small post office on the ground and main floors. The ground floor fronts on Anthony J. Griffin Place. The main floor fronts on Grand Concourse. The second and third floors will be office space and the roof will be home to a restaurant. A beer garden was presented as a possibility in January of 2015.

Rendering of the Bronx General Post Office's main hall. Credit: Studio V Architecture

Rendering of the Bronx General Post Office’s main hall. Credit: Studio V Architecture

Retail space will occupy approximately 63,842 square feet, office space will occupy approximately 104,809 square feet, and the restaurant will occupy approximately 6,665 square feet.

As it is a landmark, those proposals had to be approved at three separate sessions of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The transformation is being designed by Manhattan-based Studio V Architecture, working with preservation consultants Higgins Quasebarth & Partners.

While it’s still about a year away from opening, our visit was perfectly timed to get a last look at some of the building’s history.

We started out tour on the ground floor just inside the loading dock that will mostly become the entrance and lobby for the office space. Inside will be retail space. It’s a large space, but some of the spaces above are even larger.

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Here on the main floor, also future retail space, was the sorting area. You can see the exposed remnants of a catwalk. This is where things get really creepy. If you look about two-thirds of the way up, you can see the exposed skeleton of a catwalk.
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In this photograph, you can see if a different section and, if you look closely, you can see a door used to enter the catwalk. Note the black wall. This catwalk system was enclosed so that postal inspectors could inspect sorters without their knowledge. We’re told there was once a problem of mail theft.
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How did the inspectors do this? They looked through thin slits with Plexiglass. With a combination of black walls and Plexiglass, it would be impossible to see the eyes watching you.
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This is the view from a section of catwalk.
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Here you can see a still enclosed section of the catwalk. Our visit last Thursday was perfectly timed, for they were slated to take down the catwalks on Friday.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_09

Now, if you thought that was creepy. This will really creep you out. At least on bathroom has the surveillance slits.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_10

Continuing on the main floor, this staircase of one of the buildings interior landmarks.
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It sits just outside the main hall, which houses the murals and served postal customers. While you can still mail packages at the facility, its primary purpose is passport processing.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_12

Here are two of the murals, protected from the construction work.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_13b

A wider shot of the mail hall. Beyond the plastic sheeting is the still functioning post office.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_15

The hanging lights have eagles atop them.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_17

The hall does have an oddity. Murray told us nobody has any explanation for the advertisement for postal service to China.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_16

These photographs were taken in what was part of the postmaster’s office suite on the second floor.\
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There are a bunch of interesting old signs and posters in the building. These two were found in a bathroom.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_22 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_23

The size and light level of the future office space is quite impressive. While multiple tenants are expected, one tenant with an open floorplan would probably have more space than any trading floor on Wall Street.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_24 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_25 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_26

The space above is still impressive, though it lacks the arched windows and high ceilings.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_27 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_28

This is the view you get when you step on to the roof.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_29

This is where the restaurant will go.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_30 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_31

It will have a view of Washington Heights, Midtown Manhattan, and the RFK Bridge (better known as the Triboro Bridge).BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_32 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_33 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_34

Before we left, we also got a view of the elevator machine room and a poster.BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_35 BronxGeneralPostOffice_EvanBindelglass_36

When the revamped building opens next year, it will be convenient to mass transit. It is right across the street from the 149 St-Grand Concourse stop on the 2, 5, and 4 trains and buses stop right out front.

Stay tuned.

7 Comments on "Inside the Transformation of the Bronx General Post Office, 558 Grand Concourse"

  1. Certainly…superlong bus and yellow taxi pull my sight before an architecture on this palace.

  2. Richard Grayson | April 18, 2016 at 12:44 pm |

    Nice photography.

  3. Great article! Thank you for documenting the interior that so many people never get to see. All the old buildings being demolished should be documented this way.

  4. Great what they are doing. I hope the old courthouse at 161st and 3rd Ave ends up in a similar manner. It has been hosting one off events – but nothing permanent as yet. That building is even more beautiful.

  5. Thank you.Enjoyed the pics and article.

  6. paul lewis | May 11, 2016 at 7:43 pm |

    Interesting building. When you compare the interior in 1938 to 2013 your heart sinks – I hope they remove all that junk that totally destroys the integrity of a very good design.

  7. I am sad to see it go, but glad to know there will be a smaller on there. I always used this post office. I always felt safe inside. Good luck with the change.

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