Historic New Deal Post Office in Santa Barbara, CA, headed for sale


Santa Barbara Post Office Front (2007)

Santa Barbara Post Office Front Entrance (1983)

Santa Barbara Post Office Front, SW elevation (1983)

Santa Barbara Post Office Lobby

Santa Barbara Post Office Lobby, PO Boxes, Mural

Santa Barbara Post Office, "Transportation of the Mail"

Santa Barbara Post Office, "Transportation of the Mail"

Santa Barbara Post Office, "Transportation of the Mail"

Santa Barbara Post Office, "Transportation of the Mail"


The Postal Service is making plans to sell the historic New Deal post office on Acapata Street in downtown Santa Barbara, California, according to a report in Noozhawk.com.

Meiko Patton, the USPS communications programs specialist for the Sacramento and Sierra Coastal districts, says the building has become too large for the agency’s needs.

The Postal Service “would like to keep” a retail presence in the building through a leaseback with the new owner, says Patton.  That would eventually depend on what the buyer wants to do with the building, but such arrangements have been negotiated as part of other sales, such as the Bronx General Post Office in New York City.

The Santa Barbara post office was designed by architect Reginald Johnson. Completed in 1937, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.  According to the NRHP nomination form, “Johnson combined decorative elements derived from the Art Deco of the 1920s with archi­tectural forms based on the Spanish Colonial Revival.”

The interior of the building is adorned with a set of sunken plaster relief murals done by William Atkinson in 1937. They depict “The Transportation of the Mail.”

Most of the building remains as it was originally back in the 1930s, but one major change took place in the 1970s when the bank-teller type windows were replaced with larger open counters and personal mailboxes.

The building is part of a group of historically significant structures in the Presidio Neighborhood in the historic core of Santa Barbara. They include the Lobero Theater (designed in 1924 by George Washington Smith); the El Paseo complex of shops and restaurants (designed by James Osborn Craig and built in 1922-23); and the El Presidio complex of shops and restaurants (designed by J.J. Plunkett in 1942).

As the article in Noozhawk.com notes, the sales of historic post offices like the one in Santa Barbara have met with opposition from local residents and elected officials.  Members of Congress have put forward bills that would restrict the sales, and at least two federal agencies, the USPS Office of Inspector General and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, have issued reports critical of how the Postal Service manages and disposes of its historic properties.

While the pace of the sales of historic post offices has diminished, perhaps as a result of all this criticism and opposition, the Postal Service apparently remains committed to disposing of its historic assets.  The Santa Barbara post office will soon be listed on the USPS-CBRE Properties for Sale website.

Update, 7/18/16: Apparently the Postal Service decided to sell the Santa Barbara post office several months ago.  According to an article in edhat.com, a public notice was posted inside the post office’s bulletin board in April.  The notice states, “This property has been designated by the Postal Service to be sold.”  The notice, which also invites comments, was removed in May.

(Photo sources: Santa Barbara post office, Sam Goldman, Noozhawk; front entrance, Wikipedia; black-and-white photos, National Register; Bas relief murals and lobby, Living New Deal, Seth Gaines; vintage postcard)