Historic Structures

Building Description Southern Pacific Train Station Post Office, Sacramento California

The Railway Terminal Post Office and Express Building lies approximately 80 feet to the east of the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, and utilizes the same materials and architectural design themes as the Depot structure.

The Post Office/Express Building is comprised of essentially two forms; an almost square two story section of brick with terracotta architectural detail and tall multi-paned, windows, and a long, one story, brick section with metal roll-up doors and metal sash clerestory windows.

The two story section of the Post Office/Express Building has been carefully designed to match the design and character of the east and west wings of the adjacent Southern Pacific Depot. The buildings reflect Mediterranean and Renaissance Revival themes, and suggest the grand elegance of the "City Beautiful" movement of that era. The large arched windows of the central section of the Depot provide a counterpoint to the flatarched windows of the Express Building and Depot wings, and are surrounded by decorative brickwork. The warm textured brick walls contrast with rich cream colored architectural terra cotta moldings and balustrades. Even the large, metal sashed, multi-paned windows contribute to the elegance of the building. Its rich materials and the counterpoint of their textures add to its image and visual interest. The masterful treatment of these essentially utilitarian buildings attests to both architects' experience with the notable architectural firm of Mead, McKim and White.

While the Railway Terminal Post Office and Express Building possesses some individual design merit and visual strength, the Depot building is the strongest architectural element of the complex, establishing both image and design modes for the complex.

The building is L-shaped, with a two story, rather square, base section on the west, approximately 100 feet by 128 feet, and a long, one story, loading dock portion extending from it to the east, approximately 60 feet by 180 feet.

The interior of the two story mail terminal and express portion was divided into two sections on both stories by a solid brick wall with no interconnecting openings. On the first floor, the mail room and terminal post office occupied the west two thirds, and the railway express agency occupied the east one third. On the second floor, the mail function occupied the northern half of the floor, and the express company occupied the southern portion and office area on the east. The mail function took the west section of the mezzanine and the express agency the east section, interconnecting with the platform and driveways of the loading dock (express room) and its basement.

The only portion of the building that has a basement is the loading dock section. The basement is partially below grade and lit by small clerestory windows near ground level on the exterior. The basement is the width of the raised interior dock platform that is its roof. Large 14" square posts support 2 7 1/2" beams on edge, on 16' centers. The ceiling is of 2 x 4 lumber on edge, covered with a binding matrix and tiles approximately 1/2' thick and 6" by 12", of asphaltum composition. This ceiling forms the floor of the loading platform above, and the floor for the loading and unloading of freight into trucks.

The basement is 180' long and 40' wide. The far east end contains reinforced concrete beams that are beginning to rust and deteriorate.

A freight elevator located in the central block between the loading dock and Express office sections, and open on both east and west sides, formerly circulated between the basement, first floor, and dock platform.

The two story section of the Post Office/Express Building, divided longitudinally by an interior brick wall, contained the mail room terminal post office west of the brick wall, and railway express functions east of the wall. The narrow one story section extending to the east, served as the loading dock and temporary storage for incoming and outgoing mail and express freight. The wall divided the building unevenly into two segments, with 2/3 to 3/4 of the area west of the wall and 1/3 to 1/4 of the area east of the wall.

The first floor of the west side contained the mail room and post office functions, and the east side contained the express company functions which carried over to the loading dock.

The mail room contains an elevated concrete loading platform on the west side, approximately 25' wide, 3' tall, and extending the full depth of the building from north to south. A public lobby originally stood in the southwest corner of the platform space. A lookout gallery hung from the ceiling, extending from the west wall to the east side of the room, accessed from the central block, mezzanine and second floor. A circular mail chute connected first and second floors, and a conveyor system carried mail from the exterior loading dock on the west to the second floor post office facility room.

The southern half of the first floor Railway Express Company offices contained administrative offices and a public lobby. The northern half, beneath the mezzanine, housed a freight elevator, bullion room, and general purpose receiving room. Short stair flights on the east by the elevator led either up to the loading dock platform or down to the basement beneath it.

The loading dock contains a 60' x 180' space which is open and without interior walls or supports. An elevated forty foot wide platform lies on the southern 2/3 of the interior space above the basement, and a twenty foot wide ground level driveway area parallels the platform along the north side of the building's interior.

The second floor is essentially divided into smaller offices and a hall east of the interior wall, and into two large rooms west of the wall. A light well with skylights is located roughly in the middle, near the central block that contains an elevator and toilet/locker rooms.

Originally the two large rooms west of the wall did not connect. The north room was a post office facility and the south room was for the express company accounting department. The express company also used the office spaces east of the wall. Stairs from this floor also accessed lower floors. The Express company accessed the east side of the mezzanine, first floor and loading dock. The post office used the west side of the mezzanine, a lookout gallery and the passenger elevator that circulated between the first, second and mezzanine floors. A stairway from the exterior on the north accessed the mezzanine and second floors from ground level. The elevator was the only interior access between floors for the post office/mail facility.

The mezzanine was divided by the brick wall into areas separated into post office and express company functions. The mail facility used the mezzanine primarily for lookout gallery access. Much of the area was left open to provide light from light well skylights to the first floor toilet rooms and lockers. The express company used the mezzanine for offices, toilets, and interior floor access. The top of the freight elevator shaft also intruded into this space. Interior windows from the mezzanine overlooked the main floor of the company offices and public lobby area. to the south. Windows from this level also overlooked the interior space and platform of the loading dock section.