A look back at the history of the U.S. Post Office on Assembly Street with images from the Local History Digital Collections.
Seaboard Park, a blighted industrial area plagued with a steep slope and abandoned warehouses, saw a renewed life when the United States Postal Service eyed the area for its new headquarters. The U.S. Post Office had seriously outgrown its headquarters on Gervais Street and sought a large parcel of underdeveloped land in downtown Columbia on which to construct a new main office that could accommodate postal services, a large mail sorting space, and parking. Seaboard Park, just off of Assembly Street blocks from the State House, the United States Court House, and major interstates, was well positioned. But making use of the steeply sloped land looked like a challenge that no architect could surmount.
However, local architectural firm Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle and Wolfe used the slope to the building’s advantage by creating a sunken driveway to house a three-story mail sorting facility.
An almost floating structure supported on a base of concrete and pebble pillars was raised above the ground, with a plaza-like drive surrounding the building that feels like it was inspired by the Jetsons T.V. show. Bronze and glass walls gave the building a thoroughly modern feel. It was indeed an award-winning architectural gem when it opened in 1966.
With the coming of the Post Office the city desired to improve the surrounding area. A corresponding Municipal Parking Garage (with rooftop heliport) was designed and constructed across the street from the Post Office, and about 20 years later Seaboard Park was redesigned to become Sidney Park, now known as Finlay Park.
The city’s use of this sloping downtown property has morphed over time, and will certainly change again as new leaders take the reins and new creative visions are beheld.