One of the lesser-known and more surprising details of the Farley Post Office, across from Penn Station is on the ceiling of its main atrium. If you take a moment to look up, you may be surprised to find that it is adorned with the official seals of ten countries including France, Germany and England, in addition to the United States. This branch of the USPS was originally built by Mckim, Mead & White architects as the General Post Office, a building in tandem with the original Pennsylvania Station.
The insignias represent ten countries that one of the first members of the universal postal union at the time of the construction. This administrative body is now under the purview of the United Nations and works on shipping policies between countries around the world.
United States: Eagle with Latin phrase E Plurbis Unum (Out of Many, One)
The United States seal is centered in the atrium, surrounded by those of England and Germany. The English seal contains the French phrase, “Dieu et Mon Doit” meaning “God and my right.” The German seal became a topic of controversy when the United States entered World War I four years after the opening of the Farley Post Office, with groups requesting a removal. The German seal shows the coat of arms under Francis II, of Francis I of Austria, from the early 1800s. Other countries include the R.F. for France (which stands for République Française), Switzerland, Belgium (with the French words “L’Union Fait la Force” (meaning Strength with Unity), the Netherlands (Je Maintiendrai, meaning “I will maintain.”
England with lion, crown and the phrase “Dieu et Mon Doit” meaning “God and my right”
France with R.F. standing for Republique Française
Germany with eagle and crown
The Farley Post Office also contains seemingly incongruous international names of Cardinal Richelieu and other figures on the exterior facade. These names inscribed are all notable in the history of the postal service around the world.
Designated a landmark in 1966, the General Post Office was lauded in the Landmark Designation Report for being an “outstanding example of the Roman Classic Style, that it is notable for its monumental scale, impressive colonnade, attic and outside steps, that all of its four handsome elevations can be seen and that it has contributed significantly to the appreciation of notable Classic architecture in this country.”
With plans underway to convert the Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station, that will have a train hall for both the Long Island Railroad and Amtrak, this stately post office is on target to get more attention that it has in the last fifty years. In addition to the seals and facade, don’t miss the hidden postal museum inside as well.
It also recently received two new entrances to the Long Island Railroad concourse,