The first two historic post offices put at risk by the S&DC plan

Steve HutkinsBlog, Featured

This month the Postal Service is continuing implementation of its initiative to transform the delivery network. Seventeen post offices are seeing their carriers relocated to five new Sorting & Delivery Centers (S&DCs). A list of them is here.

After the carriers are gone and more than half the floor space becomes “excess,” the fate of these post offices will be up in the air. Retail services may eventually be relocated to smaller spaces, or the post office may just be closed completely.

If the Postal Service leases the property, as it does for eleven of the seventeen post offices on the February list, it’s possible, perhaps likely, that the lease will not be renewed. In some cases, that could be within a year or two.

If the Postal Service owns the building, it could be slated for disposal. The Postal Service owns six of the post offices being “converted” this month. Two of them are historic New Deal-era post offices constructed with federal Treasury Department funds.

The post office on 321 Main Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts, designed by local architect Edward Bridge, opened in 1934 (photo at the top). It’s part of Wakefield’s Common District, the town’s historic civic center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Wakefield Historical Society, “Classical Revival in style, this structure sympathetically compliments the Library and provides a strong institutional component to downtown.” The Wakefield post office contains two marble reliefs by Fortunato Tarquinia entitled “Benjamin Franklin” and “George Washington.”

The post office at 421 Jenks Avenue in Panama City, Florida, was and dedicated on April 29, 1938, with Postmaster General  James A. Farley in attendance. Its architecture shares a “strict symmetry and adherence to orthogonal lines” with the nearby Art Deco Martin Theater. There’s a 3D model of the Panama City post office here.

Downtown Station Post Office, Panama City, Florida (Photo: M. Gollnick, Living New Deal)

There’s been some discussion of an adaptive re-use of the post office should Florida State University decide to establish facilities in downtown Panama City. The post office is conveniently located for students and faculty, just a block away from a park, two blocks from the waterfront, and two blocks from the Harrison Avenue commercial corridor with its many restaurants. An interesting mural project next to the post office was completed in 2021 —  a vintage-inspired postcard intended to look at home next to the historic post office.

Back in 2012, the sale of historic post offices became a matter of national controversy, including critical reports from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the USPS Office of Inspector General, as well as articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today

As the Postal Service proceeds with its rollout of the S&DC plan, more and more historic post offices will be put in jeopardy, and the controversy of years past will be renewed. There are five historic post offices on the list of S&DC conversions set for June 2023 — Frankfort, NY (1941); Ilion, NY (1936); Tipton, IN (1936); Muncy, PA (1937), and Lock Haven, PA (1921) — and there will be hundreds more if the Postal Service relocates carriers from five or six thousand post offices.

This month two historic post offices are being put at risk, but it’s only the beginning.

— Steve Hutkins

(Featured photo: Wakefield, MA, Post Office: Evan Kalish, Living New Deal)

(Learn more about the delivery network transformation on our S&DC Dashboard. An archive of articles about historic post offices is here.)