As part of our building history series, today we take a look at the Old Waterville Post Office in Waterville, Maine:
The “Greek Revival” period of 1820 to 1860 has mistakenly been thought to be an era of derivative architecture. Contrarily, while domestic architecture of this type did represent and idealization of the classic world of Greece and Rome, it also represented the colonial attitue of independence and freedom.
During this era the country became architecturally free and architecturally classic. There was a conscious separation from Europe and a fierce desire to be American. It is in this aftermath of this tradition that the Main Post Office in Waterville, Maine was designed.
Designed in 1911 by the turn-of-the-century U.S. Treasury Department Architect James Knox Taylor, the building is based largely on William Strickland’s Philadelphia Exchange built between 1832 and 1834. Like Strickland, Taylor shared and enthusiasm for the Grecian style.
Perhaps less idealistic in his designs, Taylor was nonetheless sensitive to the refinements of this type of architecture. Where others used bold planes, Taylor utilized this style’s swelling curves and rich decoration, especially as found in the Corinthian order.
The Greek Revival was the first pervasive and self-conscious nationalistic movement in American architecture. Its initial impetus came at the professional level where it was used for government buildings. The Post Office in Waterville represents Greek Revival architecture at this level in its latter day phase and survives as perhaps the best of only a few such examples in Maine.