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Old Post Office Building (Washington)

The Old Post Office (Pavilion) is located in downtown Washington, DC.

When completed in 1899, it was thought that the Post Office Building would stimulate revitalization of one of the worst neighborhoods in Washington, DC. It became evident that the hoped-for results were not forthcoming. The early years of the building's history were marked with controversy and disappointment. The Old Post Office Building was less than ten years old when cries were heard that it should be torn down. One local man, Nathan Rubinton, carved by hand a model of the building so that when it was torn down people would remember how it looked. In 1914, the District of Columbia Mail Depot was moved to a larger building constructed next to Union Station. Although only 15 years old, the building at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue was dubbed the "old" post office.

The Postmaster General moved to a newly constructed office building directly across 12th Street in 1934. The only reason that the Old Post Office was not then razed was a lack of money due to the Great Depression. For the next 40 years the building served as overflow space for several government agencies. In the 1970s, Congress finally appropriated the money to remove the Old Post Office. Local citizens banded together for a desperate final struggle to save it. Nancy Hanks, the politically influential chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, joined the effort and prevailed in convincing Congress to reverse its decision: the Old Post Office was rescued. In 1983, the Old Post Office was officially renamed the Nancy Hanks Center in recognition of her devotion to the arts and the preservation of architecturally significant buildings.

After years of renovation, the Old Post Office reopened. Today, both government and privately owned businesses share its generous spaces. Daily, thousands of visitors and government workers enjoy the food courts, shopping, and entertainment on the stage. The National Park Service provides tours of the Old Post Office Tower affording one of the most spectacular views of Washington from the 270 foot-high observation deck. An exhibit room depicts the struggle for survival of the Old Post Office building and features the Rubinton model. While touring the tower, visitors can also view the Congress Bells, one of the largest sets of change ringing bells in North America and the official bells of the United States Congress.

Adapted from (public domain)