No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Old Post Office

Those of you who have lived in Poughkeepsie for a long time may remember a stately brick building that once stood on Market Street. Today, the land where this building stood is now a very modern-looking Dutchess County Office Building (home of the DMV and County Clerk offices). If we go back in time to the mid 19th century, there was a famous row of buildings known as Lawyers’ Row. If you happened to find yourself in trouble, you could simply shop for a lawyer conveniently located right next door to the County Courthouse. However, in 1883, this real estate would find a new purpose when the Federal Government decided that this row of old decrepit buildings was the perfect spot for a post office. 

On March 23rd, 1883, the lawyers on what was known as “Jewett Block” on the corner of Market and Union streets were all in a flurry as they considered the futures of their dingy office spaces. The Federal Government was in town looking for land to build a new Post Office, and they had their eye on Lawyers’ Row. It’s not like this line of buildings was a palace worth saving, on the contrary. These offices were dark, cramped, and there were no bathrooms or really any conveniences to speak of. But it wasn’t just lawyers who needed to find a new place, Charles Rook, the barber also needed to vacate, and quickly. Construction for a Post Office on Market Street in Poughkeepsie began in July of 1884. Everyone was so excited at the thought of having a large and fancy new post office, so much so that competing local newspapers were sharing architectural drawings that weren’t actually drawings for the new post office at all. Just speculations of what it might look like (apparently, it was the Poughkeepsie Eagle News that had the correct drawing). 

This building served the community as a post office for just over 50 years until the 1930s, when it was decided that a new location was needed. Once again, the Federal Government came to town and began looking for a place to put a new post office. In 1935, suggestions were made by some locals that the land in Eastman Park be given to the government in exchange for the old post office. Many hoped that it could become the new City Hall. But the land the government wanted was on Mansion street, and plans were drawn up for a new post office, modeled after the 1809 County Courthouse and completed by 1939. For a few years, the old post office sat vacant.    

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that the old post office be converted into headquarters for all of the various defense agencies that had popped up during the war. Even by 1942 there still had been no movement into the old post office building, but once again the county considered possibly buying the building for the war efforts and then using the space after the war as an expansion of the courthouse. Finally in November of 1942, the Board of Supervisors approved war related organizations the use of the building, rent-free. Suddenly, the old post office was the headquarters of the groups that supervised rationing, draft boards, and the County War Council, amongst others. In 1944, the county offered the Federal Government $40,000 to purchase the building, which was accepted, and not long after the war, the space was converted again to become the Dutchess County Office Building.

Suddenly, a space that was only meant for letters and packages was now the home of the DMV, the Welfare Department, and other such agencies. As the century marched on, the old space was quickly becoming too crowded and simply outdated. Discussions began as early as 1955 over the concerns for a new county office building, and it was decided that the old one must come down to make way for something more modern. In May of 1962, the Poughkeepsie Wrecking Company began the demolition of the old post office. Yet another building lost to the progression of time.     

Poughkeepsie Journal – 23 Mar 1883, 25 Mar 1884, 11 Sep 1935, 25 Sep 1941, 10 Oct 1942, 11 Nov 1942, 12 Apr 1944, 20 Feb 1962, 17 May 1962 

01 – Image of the structure known as Lawyer’s Row, located on Market Street. LH Collections
02 – Black & white photograph of the old Post Office in Poughkeepsie. LH Collections
03 – Image of the old Post Office Building, located on Market Street. LH Collections
04 – Image from the Poughkeepsie Journal showing the beginning of the demolition of the Post Office