New Deal Post Offices

Taking up arms against the USPS in Norwich, CT

May 29, 2011

The post office in Norwich, Connecticut, was built in 1905. An addition was built by the New Deal in 1938, and the post office was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.  It contains a mural, "Taking Up Arms - 1776," painted in 1940 by George Kanelous, who was such a perfectionist he’d paint over his own paintings and consequently left a relatively small body of work. 

The USPS has announced plans to close this historic post office and move operations to an annex facility on the outskirts of the city, far from any population base or a bus route. 

According to The Day, James A. Hickey Jr., a Postal Service real estate specialist, told city officials that the building could be placed on the market within the next 60 days.  The Postal Service would consider providing for the downtown “with a so-called contract postal unit, a small station run by a private business owner to sell stamps and hold post office boxes.”

City officials have enlisted assistance from the state congressional delegation Monday in the fight to save the post office.  But The Day reports, “Norwich might not get a full hearing on their arguments. Because the Postal Service considered it merely a transition from one Norwich facility into another, the city was not given any input or a public hearing ahead of time on the decision.”  Watch a TV news spot on the fate of the post office.

(Photo credit: post office exterior; mural; postcard)

Done Deal: New Deal P.O. in Westport, CT, Sold

May 23, 2011

The post office at 154 Post Road in Westport, Connecticut, was built in 1935 by the New Deal.  It was designed by Lansing Holden, a World War I flying ace, who won the Distinguished Service Cross.  Returning home from the war, he took up his father’s profession as an architect.  Holden continued to fly, and in 1938 he died in a crash trying to land in bad weather. 

As reported in the Westport Patch, the Postal Service decided back in December 2009 to sell the post office.  The explanation was that "the USPS is having financial problems, customers have trouble finding parking spaces by the building, and the building is larger than Westport postal workers need now that mail is sorted in Norwalk." The building was  appraised at $3.6 million, according to Westport tax records.

The Westport News reports that the post office was sold on May 18 for $2.35 million, to a real estate company named Ansley Westport Partners, based in Atlanta. The new owners of the building will seek a retailer or restaurant as a tenant.  "It's a unique and historic building. We appreciate the importance of the building to Westport," said Ansley Westport principal and Atlanta-based lawyer, Alon Panovka. "We would like to find a tenant that will enhance the downtown Westport area."

Westport will continue to have its own post office—it's relocating a few block away, to Playhouse Square.  Postal Service officials have not yet disclosed a relocation date.

As the Westport Patch reports, local merchants are bemoaning the closing of the post office. "It's terrible. Just a shame," said Joe Canicatti, owner of Joe's Pizza,which is just across the street from the post office. "We are going to lose a lot of foot traffic. Everybody's moving out. It's disappointing."

Westport, by the way, was the home of artist Robert Lamdin, who painted New Deal murals in the nearby Bridgeport post office and elsewhere in Connecticut.

UPDATE: The post office closed with the first of the year, Jan. 2012.

(Photo credit: Westport News and Westport Now)

New Deal Post Office in Camas, WA: Going, going, gone

May 23, 2011

The post office in downtown Camas, Washington, was built in 1939 under the New Deal, and it's been on the National Register of Historic Buildings since 1991. 

The Camas post office contains a mural, sponsored by the Section of Fine Arts, painted by Douglas Nicholson in 1941. Entitled "Beginning of a New World," it depicts Northwest settlers and a Native American woman as well as local industries of lumber, dairying, fruit and grain, and fishing.  (More on the history of this post office, here.)

The Postal Service announced back in late 2009 that the Camas post office would be closing, a decision decried by residents and city officials. “You’re taking a sound establishment from the core of downtown, which will have a detriment to the downtown businesses,” said Brent Erickson, executive director of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce. “With businesses that have moved out of the area or closed up shop, we’ll have that much less of a walking traffic down here.”  “It’s used by many, many, many people,” City Manager Lloyd Halverson said. “It’s got nice architecture to it. It would be a loss to the downtown area.”  Mayor Paul Dennis criticized the Postal Service for its decision and expressed his concerns, but the city was essentially “blown-off” by the Postal Service and said it was going to move forward with the consolidation.

The Columbian reported on April 13, 2011, that the Vancouver-based Last U.S. Bag Co., will be buying the building for the asking price of $430,000.  Last U.S. Bag Co. sells custom-sewn bags and cases, and it will use the post office as a showroom and office space.

Beginning in the fall of this year, citizens will need to use an annex on the outskirts of town for their retail services and post office boxes.

More about the community's response on its Facebook page, Save the Camas PO.

(Photo credit: exterior; mural; annex.)

It don’t look good, news is bad: New Deal P.O. in Ukiah, CA, to close

May 20, 2011

The post office in Ukiah, California, was built in 1937 under the New Deal.  It may close in a few weeks.  On Feb. 23, the Postal Service announced its intention to close this downtown post office and move its services to an annex at the edge of the city.  A meeting was held on April 21, and more than 200 people turned out to protest.  More might have shown up, but postcards announcing the meeting mysterious arrived a week after the meeting.  (Watch a video of the meeting here.)

The post office contains some historic murals, like the one pictured here, "Resources of the Soil," by Ben Cunningham (1938).  (For more info, see the Facebook page local citizens are maintaining about their efforts to save the Ukiah Post Office.)

Ukiah is the birthplace is folksinger and protest activist Holly Near, whose song "Show Up" contains these lyrics:

It don’t look good, news is bad
You know I lost all hope that I thought I had
But what if good news is on the way
Wouldn't you hate to miss that day
You gotta show up get ready
See if you know how to rock steady

(photo credit:

UPDATE: June 21, 2011: Mercury News reports, "Historic post office in downtown Ukiah to close": "The Postal Service said Monday that it would shut down the downtown post office and relocate its services to another facility near Highway 101. . .  Postal officials have said the mural would be preserved if the building is sold."  Some 5,000 signatures had been gathered opposing the closing. 

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