From the NYT
Q. On the far right side of the Eighth Avenue facade of the main post office building, up near the parapet, the name of Cardinal de Richelieu is carved into the stone, along with other names and dates. Why?
Sign up for the New York Today Newsletter Each morning, get the latest on New York businesses, arts, sports, dining, style and more. Get it sent to your inbox. A. The chief designer of the James A. Farley Post Office, William Mitchell Kendall of McKim, Mead & White, inscribed the names of pivotal figures in Western postal history at the corners of each of the three principal facades. Taken together, the names provide a terse tutorial in mail delivery through the ages, ranging from emperors, kings, and cardinals to otherwise obscure bureaucrats.
The first, starting at the western corner of the 31st Street facade, is that of the Persian Emperor Cyrus, who established a system of mounted relay messengers in Egypt in the sixth century B.C., followed by the Roman Emperor Augustus, who developed a series of post roads with relay stations between Rome and its provinces. These names are followed by Nerva, the emperor who canceled the postal tax in the first century A.D., and Charlemagne, who centuries later extended the postal network of the Romans into Italy, Germany and France.
This list continues on the Eighth Avenue facade: Louis XI of France, who created what was arguably Europe's first national postal system, in 1477; Franz von Taxis, who in 1490 organized a permanent postal link between nations; Cardinal de Richelieu, whose policies made the French postal service more available to the public in the early 17th century, and Pierre d'Almeras, who established fixed delivery fees in 1627.
And on the West 33rd Street facade, there are Thomas Witherings, Andrew Hamilton, Sir Rowland Hill and Heinrich von Stephan, postal legends all.