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High Line Architecture: Morgan General Mail Facility

501 West 29th Street, standing defiant

Morgan General Mail Facility, from the Ohm apartment building, November 2012

This third piece on High Line architecture focuses on the Morgan General Mail Facility on Tenth Avenue between 28th and 30th Streets. Of the buildings I’ve covered so far in this series (the Westyard Distribution Center next door and the former R.C. Williams warehouse a few blocks south) the Morgan has the oldest and richest back-story. Spanning three centuries, from the 1860s to the second decade of the 21st century, this massive structure and the land it sits on offer up many threads in the history and culture of New York City.

The photo above, taken from the roof of the Ohm apartment building on Eleventh Avenue, reveals much of modern story. Completed in 1933, the Morgan was built with funds and labor from the New Deal’s WPA program. It was designed to connect with the High Line and create a seamless path for the more than 8,000 mail trains that crossed the country each year on an intricate network of rail lines before ultimately proceeding south alongside the Hudson River on tracks of the New York Central Railroad into Manhattan. The last 30 feet or so of their journey took them across Tenth Avenue on a specially constructed spur that led directly into the postal facility. My photo was taken hours after the first snowfall of 2012, and you can easily see the rails on the abandoned spur and the bricked-up siding where the trains once entered the building.  The photo below is from the West Side Improvement Brochure and shows the Morgan in the year it was built. Look closely and you can see a locomotive motoring through the siding (as always, click a photo to enlarge it). [continue reading…]