El Viejo Building (Old Post Office) – Modesto CA

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The old downtown post office – officially, the Federal Building – was built in 1933 by the Treasury Department in Modesto, California. 

The project has a long pre-history and was to be built as part of a sweeping catalogue of federal buildings around the country in the 1920s.  It finally got underway in the early 1930s.  The design was drawn up in the Treasury Department in 1931 and bids for construction were advertised in late 1932.  The contract awarded to Murch Brothers Construction Company of St. Louis, a large firm that built several other post offices around the country.

The project was continued as a part of the New Deal.  The cornerstone was laid in March 1933 and the building opened to the public in October of that year.

The building is a handsome example of Italian Renaissance revival, designed by the Treasury’s architectural office. It echoes the appearance of the Berkeley CA post office, built in the 1920s and designed by the noted architect, Julia Morgan.

The building was sold off by the U.S. Postal Service in 2011, as part of a frantic effort by the USPS to pay for all its future pensions obligations – imposed by Congress in the 2000s and rescinded in 2022. It now houses law offices and other private firms.

Inside the building’s lobby, which is still largely intact, is a series of murals painted by Roy Boynton. 

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, the plaque by the front steps mistakenly put a “circa” before the date, 1933; in fact, that date is quite certain.


Source notes

Clayton Fraser, Nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 1982.  available at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/123862168



Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on June 17, 2010.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

1125 I St.
Modesto, CA 95354

Coordinates: 37.64106, -120.997

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