Chicago’s prominence in the mail-order catalog industry led to the creation of the world’s largest post office in the city in the 1930s, when the old main post office was completed.
These days, a small army of construction workers is pushing aside the dust of those bygone days — more than 23 tons of debris have been hauled away so far — as part of a more than $600 million plan to convert the art deco behemoth into modern offices, restaurants, shops, entertainment and park space.
In the process, owner 601W Cos. wants to bring the long-vacant post office full circle. As it happens, e-commerce giant Amazon, today’s master of home deliveries, is seeking a home for a 50,000-employee second headquarters.
“The reason this was the largest post office ever built was, because if you look back at the history of the time, the Amazons of their time were catalog distributors: Sears, Roebuck; Montgomery Ward; and Spiegel,” said Brian Whiting, president of Chicago-based Telos Group, which represents 601W in finding tenants for the post office. “Chicago was the center of that not only because those companies developed here, but because of the transportation to distribute virtually everywhere in the United States.”