The architecture of this jaw-dropping, century-old post office nestled in the center of Mexico City’s bustling historic central district would be glorious enough on its own; Palacio Postal’s true magnificence, however, hails from the fact that its splendor is completely de rigueur for the masses who continue using it for purely pragmatic reasons daily, numbed to the unparalleled blend of golden architecture on all sides.
Dreamt up by then-President Porfirio Díaz, the Central Historic District’s secret treasure was brought to life by Mexican engineer Gonzalo Garita y Frontera, designed in conjunction with renowned Italian architect Adamo Boari, the latter of whom would go on to earn international recognition for his work on the adjacent Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Palacio Postal – interchangeably referred to as Correo Mayor, or the Main Post Office – had its first stone placed on September 14th, 1902, though the building ultimately took five years to complete. Despite regular earthquakes (including a major one in 1985 which caused damage requiring no small amount of restoration to the historic building), Palacio Postal has been in continuous operation since its opening day in 1907. Designed to include an exterior façade of yellow quarry stone and ornamental columns that are decorative but not extraordinary, no one would expect the blinding, latticed gold-work waiting just inside its doors.
The structure’s unique style hasn’t lent itself to easy classification over the past century; rather, it’s become a sort of architectural mood ring, with assessments revealing more about the viewer’s perspective than what is necessarily most prominent in the building itself. Terms and descriptors for the Palacio most frequently tossed about include: Art Nouveau, Moorish, Venetian Gothic Revival, Baroque, Neoclassical, Spanish Renaissance Revival, and more. What remains undeniable are the blinding amounts of gold everywhere, its domed ceiling of leaded glass, tiled marble floors, and staircases that deliver patrons to their destinations with a grace that has been all but lost to the ages.
Though investing such effort to build a literal palace in place of a simple post office may seem remiss in our modern era, at the time, Palacio Postal served as the flagship of Mexico’s brand new national postal system. Never before had the country been united in a single agency – let alone in a service provided by the government – with a way for its citizens to reliably communicate from one disparate end of the nation to the other.
In addition to continuing to provide all the basic, expected functions of a post office on its first floor, Palacio Postal also houses a small museum dedicated to displaying the history of Mexico’s mail service. Its crown jewel is the invaluable, very first stamp Mexico ever issued, which true philatelists find among the most titillating postal relics on display anywhere in the world today.
Know Before You Go
Metro stop: Bellas Artes