In 1792, Raleigh was established as North Carolina’s seat of government. Congress approved $50,000 for a new post office and federal building in 1856, but construction was postponed due to the Civil War. By 1870, Raleigh was slowly recovering from the war, but construction continued to be delayed until 1873 when Congress increased the appropriation to $200,000. Designed by Alfred B. Mullett (1834–1890) during his term as supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, the building reflects his penchant for the Second Empire style, prominently displayed in his design for the State, War and Navy Building (Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building) in Washington, D.C.
Bordered by Fayetteville, Martin, and Salisbury Streets, the building is located in the heart of Raleigh’s central business district. This site was strategically chosen for its proximity to multiple county and state administration buildings, including the Wake County Courthouse. On July 4, 1874, citizens gathered for the laying of the cornerstone, which contained a copper box filled with 1874 coins, documents, and photographs. The building was completed in 1878 at a final cost of $400,000.
Raleigh’s population grew to more than 25,000 by 1910 and the growing community required an expanded post office. The 1913 addition, designed by Raleigh architect Frank Buchanan Simpson (1883–1966), nearly doubled the size to 37,800 square feet. In 1938, the second major addition, designed by local architect William Henley Deitrick (1895–1974), increased the square footage to more than 90,000.
The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was renamed Federal Building Century Postal Station in 1978, in celebration of its centennial. Throughout the 1970s, a number of alterations changed the building’s character, with florescent lighting replacing chandeliers and drop ceilings covering molding. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court and Post Office, current occupants of the building, urged an extensive rehabilitation and restoration project that was completed in 2007. The project reintroduced many of Century Postal Station’s historic features.