After glancing at the old Post Office at the Southeast corner of 5th and Washington Streets you may realize the building was the only one of its type and style in this city.
Daniel Ermentrout was congressman for this district, when a federal building was ordered for Reading and built here. An old story has it that a southern city and Reading were both to have new buildings and in some way or other, Reading got the building planned for a southern metropolis while that city got the one intended for Reading. Another old report is to the effect that the plans of Reading and some Ohio city were mixed.
The fact that the Reading post office, built as it was on one corner of a big lot, which, say local contractors, if properly utilized at the time, would have allowed for a big extension, without the purchase of additional ground, adds color to the story.
The legislation on account of the building is contained in acts of Congress approved March 3, 1885 (Stat. L., vol. 23, pp. 346 and 481), July 29, 1886, and March 3, 1887.
The Pennsylvania House Hotel once occupied the site of the post office.
The ground was secured by purchase January 6, 1887, for $47,000, and work of excavating for foundations was commenced during the latter part of that year, the building being completed and occupied in September. 1889. The cost of construction was $132,578.15.
The entire first floor and a portion of the second was occupied by the postal service. Other rooms on the second floor were assigned to the internal-revenue service and pension examiner.
The Reading building was constructed of King of Prussia marble mixed in Pennsylvania, Vermont granite and brick. It is probably more of the southern type of architecture than that common to this section.
When erected this building was one of the most imposing in the city.
The building was demolished and replaced by a new structure built in 1940 under the New Deal.
The new post office had 50 percent more usable floor space than the building which served as its predecessor.
With a total of 57,772 square feet of floor space, the new post office exceeded the old building’s 39,255 square feet by 18,537 square feet.