New York Architecture Images- Gone

City Hall Post Office "Mullet's monstrosity"


A.B. Mullett


at the triangular tip of City Hall Park




Second Empire Baroque  






  special thanks to 


  Above- Berenice Abbot




Although the site at the triangular tip of City Hall Park was chosen for a U.S. post office in 1867, the elaborately colonnaded, mansard-roofed building did not open until 1878. After a competition with no winner, a committee headed by A. B. Mullet was formed to design the building. Never liked, it was dubbed "Mullet's monstrosity," and as early as 1920 efforts to demolish it were underway. Because of a land-rights dispute between the city and federal authorities, the building stood until 1938, when the beautification of City Hall Park for the 1939 World's Fair hastened its demise. Abbott recorded the much-maligned building a month before it was razed.

On her first visit to the post office, Abbott featured the Third Avenue trolley, which started its route there and traveled 12 miles north through the Lower East Side to Yorkville, and west to Harlem and Washington Heights. A heavily used route, the Third Avenue line ran every four minutes by day and every twenty minutes by night, carrying 65,000 passengers a day. In Plate 35, the trolley's front entrance fills the frame, leaving only fragments of the Woolworth Building (left); the post office; and a city bus, the trolley's fiercest competitor. In a discarded version, the post office seems to ascend from the trolley, like a birthday cake on a platter.


Three weeks later, Abbott returned to the site with a large camera and juxtaposed the post office with the Woolworth Building (1913) across the street. Lacking sympathy for academic Victorian architecture, she may well have intended the contrast of the squat, heavy post office with the soaring, elegant Woolworth Building as an architectural critique.

Despite the city's eagerness to demolish what it considered an eyesore, the subsequent renovation of City Hall Park was uninspired, and the park remains unimpressive. The Third Avenue trolley line was viable in Abbott's day, but the trolley system had already begun to falter, giving way to buses that could navigate city streets more freely. New York's last trolley ran in 1957.