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This building should’ve been Louisville’s most famous landmark

The U.S. Post Office and Customs House stood in the heart of downtown for 40 years, but now it’s almost entirely forgotten.

A five-story, Renaissance Revival stone building in Louisville, Kentucky.

Anytime a building was worthy of inclusion on a postcard, as Louisville’s U.S. Post Office and Customs House was here, it qualifies as a landmark.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Louisville has a ton of iconic landmarks, and if this impressive Renaissance Revival building were still around today, it would be at the top of the list.

The former U.S. Post Office and Customs House was built at the intersection of 4th and Chestnut streets in 1892. The stone structure stood five-stories tall with an ornamental steeple on its southwest corner, which could be seen from miles around. Imagine seeing that from Fourth Street Live! instead of the apartments there today.

At the time, the federal building was considered such a magnificent piece of Derby City architecture that it even appeared on postcards.

It housed government offices and served as a post office for ~40 years. Inside, its towering atrium was used for public events, like galas and concerts.

The interior atrium of Louisville's U.S. Post Office and Customs Building.

The atrium, seen here decorated for a concert and gala in 1900, served as a place for public events.

Photo courtesy Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville (ULPA 1994_018_0164)

In 1933, with the need for more space, the offices all moved three blocks away to the newly built Gene Snyder Federal Building on Broadway. In the midst of the Great Depression, the old building sat vacant for a decade and became known as Louisville’s most grand pigeon roost, which isn’t exactly postcard-worthy. It was demolished in 1943.

Fun fact: Demolition of the building created materials used in the American World War II effort. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 9 million tons of iron + steel
  • 80,000 lbs of copper
  • 20,000 lbs of brass, bronze, and lead

Following demolition, the land briefly became an urban green space, called Lincoln Park, until 1950. Then it was occupied by department stores through the 1970s and converted into offices through the 2010s.

Today, it’s home to the Edge on 4th Luxury Apartments, which were built in 2018, and the corner, once home to that ornamental steeple, is now a parking garage.

Louisville's old U.S. Post Office and Customs House, as it was scene in 1906.

This corner in downtown Louisville was once occupied by the U.S. Post Office and Customs House, Lincoln park, and a department store.

Photo courtesy Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville (ULPA CS_006950)