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Jersey City Main Post Office
69 Washington Street between Montgomery and York Streets

Jersey City Main Post Office
Postcard circa 1910
Courtesy, RF Smith

Jersey City Main Post Office
Photo: P. Shalhoub, 2001

Postcard circa 1900 showing the Old Post Office
(formerly the Dudley S. Gregory Mansion)
at the northwest corner of Sussex and Washington Streets
currently the site of P.S. #16 Cornelia Bradford School

Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Postcard circa 1900 showing the Old Post Office
(formerly the Dudley S. Gregory Mansion)
at the northwest corner of Sussex and Washington Streets
currently the site of P.S. #16 Cornelia Bradford School

Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library


The grand Jersey City Post Office at Montgomery and York Streets was built in 1911 by the Hedden Construction Company. It is of Italian Renaissance design with exterior walls of Mt. Waldo granite. The façade on Washington Street has fluted Corinthian columns and carved capitals flanked by piers with Corinthian style pilasters. The pavilions on the Montgomery and York Street facades also have pilasters of the Corinthian order. The two-story building with a basement and attic is 177 feet by 129 feet. The roof is made of copper and the exterior window and door frames are of cast bronze and bronze-covered wood, iron, and steel. Tiffany Studio supplied the bronzes.

One enters the Post Office building to the main lobby from broad flights of stairs on both Montgomery and York Streets. The public lobbies are decorated in Kingwood sandstone and Botticine marble, and the ceiling of the main corridor on the first floor is decorated in solid gold leaf. The interior construction is of steel columns and beams and fireproofed with terra cotta. The Main Post Office was dedicated on November 7, 1913. It was rededicated for former US Representative Frank J. Guarini on June 16, 2008. Guarini, a native of Jersey City, graduated Lincoln High School in 1942 and fought in World War II as a Navy Reserve lieutenant aboard the USS Mount McKinley. He served in the NJ Senate from 1965 to 1972 and in Congress from 1979 to 1983. The library at New Jersey City University is named for Guarini as is the Center for Government Affairs at St. Peter's College.

This turn of the twentieth-century structure was not Jersey City's first post office. Postal regulations for present-day Jersey City date back to those established by Director General Peter Stuyvesant and his council for New Netherland in the 1660s. Mail came into Paulus Hook by stagecoach from places like Philadelphia and New Amsterdam. In 1807, Jersey City obtained its own post office with Samuel Beach appointed as the first postmaster. In those days, the post office facility was usually placed in the home or at the place of business of the postmaster. For example, when William Lyon, a grocer, became postmaster (1820-1835), the post office was at the grocery story on the corner of Montgomery and Washington Street. The Jersey City post office, therefore, moved several times with each new postmaster. This practice ended in 1853 when Jersey City was designated for first class postal status due to its volume of mail; an old frame building at 255 Washington Street became its postal facility.

Ten years later, the post office was removed to 251 Washington Street, between Montgomery and York Streets, in the old Hudson County National Bank Building, where it functioned in the basement. The location of the post office was always in dispute due to practices unfamiliar to us today. Prior to the use of stamps, postage was collected from the recipient of the letter. Mail was not delivered to the home, but one personally collected the mail at the post office. Mail carriers did not begin home delivery until 1867.

In 1873, the US Congress appropriated $100,000 for a new post office, but it was not sufficient for a new building. The money was used to purchase the former residence of Dudley S. Gregory, Jersey City's first mayor, at Washington and Sussex Streets. Over the years it was extended and renovated but still not accommodating to the growing volume of mail. The new main post office building was opened in 1913 at 69 Montgomery Street to meet the needs of the growing community.

Eight additional post offices were opened in Jersey City: Bergen (528 Bergen Avenue; Jackson Avenue (163 Claremont Avenue); Five Corners (645 Newark Avenue); Journal Square (899 Bergen Avenue); Greenville (137 Ocean Avenue); Gen. Lafayette (322 Pacific Avenue); Hudson City (392 Central Avenue); and Westside Avenue (504 Westside Avenue).

References:

"The Jersey City Post Office." ts. Joan D. Lovero Collection, Jersey City Free Public Library, October 1964.
Miller, E.W. "Jersey City Post Office: Past and Present." (Dedication) Jersey City: Jersey City Free Public Library, 7 November 1913.
Thorbourne, Ken. "Honor for Guarini." Jersey Journal 17 June 2008.



By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub