New Deal Post Offices
May 19, 2011
The rich heritage of post offices built during the New Deal is being dismantled by the Postal Service, piece by piece. The post office in Athens, Pennsylvania, may be closing soon. The Sayre, PA, Morning Times reports today, "According to the Postmaster (who is not a local), a truck will come in Memorial Day weekend to move the majority of the building out and on June 4, employees were informed to report the Sayre Post Office for work. One clerk and one maintenance man will man the office in Athens until the final shutdown is scheduled.”
The Athens, PA, post office was built in 1939, and it features, like many of the New Deal buildings, a mural of historic interest. It's entitled "General Sullivan at Tioga Point," painted in 1941 by Allan D. Jones, Jr.
The "father of American music," Stephen Foster, was born about 50 miles away, in Lawrenceville, and he attended school in Athens from 1839 to 1841. At the age of 14, he wrote his first composition, Tioga Waltz, and performed it during commencement exercises. The site of his famous song "Camptown Races" is just 30 miles from Athens. You can bet your money on de bob-tail nag, but don't bet on the Athens New Deal post office coming out ahead.
May 19, 2011
The post office in Northfield, Minnesota was built by the New Deal in 1936. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's a cornerstone of the Northfield Downtown Historic District. The Postal Service has announced it will close this historic downtown post office and consolidate services at an annex a few miles away.
KYMN radio reports today that the Northfield city council is sending a letter to the USPS District Area Manager requesting the postal service delay its decision to close the post office. A Save Our Post Office Task Force has gathered over 1,000 petition signatures, and local business people and government officials have been meeting with their Congressional representatives, urging the USPS to reconsider its decision. The USPS made its announcement on April 5, which began a 60-day comment period, so there's still time for local residents to make their voices heard, and it will be several weeks more before a final decision is made.
Northfield is famous for the attempted robbery of the First National Bank by Jesse James and his gang in 1876. The robbery went bad and several people were killed, including two of the gang. Hence, one of Northfield's slogans is "Jesse James Slipped Here." Looks like the USPS may be more successful in robbing the town.
UPDATE: August 18, 2011: "Northfield has been rebuffed in its attempt to buy the city's endangered post office and provide free space for the U.S. Postal Service to continue retail service in the historic building." Read more.
UPDATE: Jan. 25, not good: http://northfield.patch.com/articles/post-office-could-be-put-up-for-sale-within-days
(Photo credits: exterior)
May 19, 2011
The downtown post office in Cheraw, South Carolina, was built in 1933 under the New Deal. It's located in the middle of the Cheraw Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's surrounded by buildings that go back to the Civil War and even earlier. Cheraw, by the way, is the birthplace of Dizzie Gillespie.
The post office almost closed back in 1996 and again in 2009, but preservationists and government officials were able to save it. Now this historic post office is set to close again, and this time it looks like it's going to be tough to save. Postal Service officials want to consolidate operations by moving postal services to an annex located three miles from downtown.
Cheraw's mayor, Scott Hunter, said the post office would not go down without a fight, and he's enlisted the support of U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney. But residents of the small town can see the writing on the wall. As the Cheraw Chronicle reports, there are already rumors going around that potential buyers are making inquiries, and preservationists are hoping that the building might be turned into a museum or something that preserves the historic integrity of the building.
UPDATE, JUNE 8, 2011: "Residents riled up over closure of Post Office"
UPDATE, FEB. 12, 2012: USPS says, "how about a modular unit?"
May 7, 2011
Another historic post office, this one in Venice, California, is set to close. Like the one we posted about a few days ago, it's from the New Deal, built in 1939 by the Works Projects Administration. The full story is here, and a blog on "save the Venice post office" is here.
Like many New Deal public buildings, the Venice post office has some significant murals, including "The First Thirty Years of Venice’s History," by Edward Biberman, painted in 1941. That's Abbot Kinney in the middle, surrounded by the town he created. Here's an interview with Biberman.
May 5, 2011
The post office in Modesto, California, was built by the New Deal in 1933, under the supervision of James Wetmore, who was responsible for "designing" hundreds of public buildings in the 1930s. As the Modesto Bee relates, the post office contains nine original wall murals in the lobby, commissioned by the Treasury Relief Arts Project. The oil paintings were done in 1937 by Ray Boynton, with the assistance of several local artists, and they depict agricultural scenes: plowing, sorting and harvesting grapes; irrigating orchards; meat and cheese packing; grain harvesting and feeding cows.
UPDATE: June 15, 2011: "Bidding begins on Modesto post office": "Online bidding to buy downtown Modesto's historic post office started a week ago, but only one hopeful buyer has bid. The minimum opening bid of $100,000 was placed by an undisclosed person the morning bidding opened."