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Main Post Office

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U.S. Custom House and Post Office
1885–1893, M. E. Bell and W. J. Edbrooke. 1322 Washington St.
  • (Photograph by J. Philip Gruen)
  • (Photograph by J. Philip Gruen)
  • (Photograph by J. Philip Gruen)
  • (Photograph by J. Philip Gruen)
  • (Photograph by J. Philip Gruen)

The oldest federally constructed post office in Washington, the Port Townsend Main Post Office is a relic of the city’s short-lived prosperity as the major port city of the Puget Sound at the end of the nineteenth century. The original building, constructed between 1885 and 1893, also held the U.S. Customs House. Appropriations for the Post Office building were made in 1885 for $9,000 for the purchase of land, which doubled to $18,000 in 1888. The building occupies a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound, making it a highlight of the town’s skyline.

The building’s Richardsonian Romanesque design is attributed to Mifflin Emlen Bell. It is two stories tall with an attic and raised basement. Bell was the supervising architect for the U.S. Treasury Department from 1883 to 1886, but typically left the actual designs to his staff members. Willoughby J. Edbrooke was also a supervising architect of the U.S. treasury, serving from 1891 to 1892, and may have contributed to the overall design of the Port Townsend Main Post Office.

The Main Post Office was built mainly using sandstone, brick, and copper roofing, with the main entrance steps in granite. Arched windows cover the first and third stories. There are three semicircular, arched bays on the first floor of each of the wings and two “towers” flanking either side of the main entrance: a rounded tower, which projects 18 feet from the facade, and a square tower that projects six feet. Both of these towers are flush with the eave line of the roof, but were originally designed to extend above the roof line to provide signals to incoming and outgoing ships. Between these towers is a semicircular arched bay with smooth sandstone columns on either side of the main entry doors. On the corners of the entablature, four local Indians’ faces are enmeshed in acanthus leaves.

Writing Credits

Megan Ockerman
J. Philip Gruen
Robert R. Franklin



  • 1885

    Design and construction

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Megan Ockerman, "Main Post Office", [Port Townsend, Washington], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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