Postal Service buildings hit the chopping block

To cut costs, the USPS wants to sell hundreds of offices, many of which are architecturally important or house art treasures.

By Aimee Picchi Mar 8, 2013 3:50PM

Mailboxes in Providence, Rhode Island (© Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images)When I was a kid, the one saving grace of getting dragged along to the South Orange, N.J., post office by my mom was the chance to study the Art Deco-era murals illuminating the room. 

Little did I know then that the muted, stylish 1939 murals were painted by Bernard Perlin, who was hired at age 21 by the Works Progress Administration and went on have his work collected by top museums such as the Tate Gallery in London.

My hometown post office isn't unique, though. Because of the country's Depression-era hiring spree for artists, more than 1,100 post offices are home to art from this era. 

But now that the Postal Service is facing massive financial problems, it wants to sell hundreds of buildings around the U.S. (While The New York Times puts the number at 200 buildings, the USPS said in its 2012 annual report had identified 600 "for disposal.")

The USPS owns about one-quarter of its 31,000 post offices, with more than 1,000 built during the 1930s, according to the Times.

Some already have for-sale signs posted, including buildings in Norwich, Conn., and Gulfport, Miss. Norwich's 1905 building, which contains a 1940 mural, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, according to Save the Post Office.

Because of its plans, the USPS is fighting not only local residents who are angered by the decisions, but also the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which last year said the closures were one of biggest threats to America's architectural heritage. 

"Unless the U.S. Postal Service establishes a clear, consistent process that follows federal preservation law when considering disposal of these buildings, a significant part of the nation’s architectural heritage will be at risk," the National Trust said.

Once post office buildings are sold, they're frequently made into commercial spaces, and interiors are often significantly changed, the Times notes. In one case, a 1937 post office in Virginia Beach, Va., was knocked down to build a Walgreens (WAG) drugstore.

The postal service's plans are prompting some lawmakers to take action. Representative Scott Peters (D-Calif.) this week reintroduced a bill that would give communities across the U.S. the right of first refusal to purchase buildings the USPS wants to close. 

Peters' hometown post office in La Jolla is among those on the chopping block, according to Save the Post Office. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1935 building is another that includes a Depression-era mural

Speaking about the Santa Monica, Calif., post office, which is also slated to be sold, customer Sara Meric called the transition a "slaughter." "We don’t know what’s going to happen to this beautiful, Depression-era architectural jewel,” she told the Times.

It's not clear how much money the sales will save the USPS, but the postal service is certainly in need of financial help. It lost $15.9 billion last year and is planning to cut Saturday delivery starting in August to reduce costs.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 8, 2013 7:38PM
I hope to see one day "Congressional office buidings hit the chopping block." That would make my day.  Currently, it is my opinion those buildings are too expensive to keep up and house nothing.
Mar 8, 2013 9:39PM

Excuse me Ms. Reporter,


But if you did your homework you would see that the USPS had a profit of $100,000,000 in the first quarter of the fiscal year. The loss can be attributed to the pre-payment of $15.2 billion dollars into a fund to pre-pay FUTURE retirees health benefits. These FUTURE retirees haven't been born yet. No other government agency or private business has to make such payments, and if they did they would be on the fiscal cliff as well.

Mar 8, 2013 8:22PM
It was never intended for te postal service to make a profit or even to break even. The Interstate highway system doesn't make a profit. The postal system was created to provide communication for its citizens.
Mar 8, 2013 7:16PM

They need to give all the post offices to us.  We're the ones who paid for them in the first place.  Hey, maybe we could start a postal service that works!

Mar 9, 2013 5:17PM

I retired from the Postal Service. If the public only knew of the thousands

of high paid managers that can't walk and chew gum simultaneously.

A good place to start this purge would be the Postal Service Headquarters!

Mar 10, 2013 6:40AM

"Good point Ab irato...Many POs could be run out of a Kiosk....And yes, high paid Managers ??? In the Post Office is like 2-4 Star Generals in the Pentagon wandering around... What the hell do they do??"


Shipping isn't what it ever was before. When you think private sector-- Fed Ex, Ups... they can handle business envelopes and certain package sizes well, but the commonly shipped stuff is still cheapest and most efficiently processed by the USPS. The internal process is incredible. USPS losses are from pension payments. So... you go around thanking war vets for the duty but then condemn them for their post-service career pension? USPS prices cover their costs, that's all they're supposed to. The pension shortfall should be pulled from Congressional benefits immediately. We get our mail delivered, we do not get cooperation, progress or solutions from Congress. There is no way the USPS could be run out of kiosks... that's people who don't expedite much or often, giving an arrogant dim-witted opinion. The FACT is-- more business is done by mail than by any other form now. In a sense, USPS is the conduit for ACTUAL business in America.

Mar 10, 2013 6:30AM
The most sensible solution is to put investment banks on the chopping block. They alone borrowed from the Federal Reserve to drive us very deeply in debt and invested it in Europe bonds that are dead and stocks that are business platforms... not genuine businesses with personnel and production. Keep the Post Offices intact, take the heads of bankers and destroy their ivory towers of omnipotence.
Mar 9, 2013 12:05AM
Sell the Whitehouse.  Obama isn't ever there anyway.  He's always on vacation.
Mar 10, 2013 2:20PM

Get accustomed to this. The day is coming when the entire United States will be on the chopping block. Especially, when China and the rest of our creditors demand that we pay them the $17 trillion plus that we owe them and take recourse for the debts we can't pay.


All those Ivy League school geniuses we have running this country violated a basic Shakespearean rule: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be for loan oft loses both itself and friend and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."


There is another basic rule the geniuses violated: "If you can't afford it you shouldn't have it."

Mar 10, 2013 10:38PM

I will stick to my original "Kiosk Statement." Explanation in a moment.

But my statement was more about layers of Managers, in anwswer to another's comment.

Please do try and keep up...The Kiosk remark was somewhat spur of moment, tongue-in-cheek.


Yes pension payments are a problem with the POs, but so are they with many Corporations or other Companys...And they are going away, they seem to be for new hires; 401s anyone ?

I also believe, or know in some/many cases, that underfunded "Pension Promises" are the fault of very poor Management by everyone involved in that process...Similar to Social Security.

It has shown up to be true in many State, County and Local Governments.

Also BTW...Many people that work at Post Offices or in that process..WERE NEVER Veterans.

We know several personally....And I also know Veterans that work/worked there.

Mar 9, 2013 7:49PM

Good point Ab irato...Many POs could be run out of a Kiosk....And yes, high paid Managers ???


In the Post Office is like 2-4 Star Generals in the Pentagon wandering around...


What the hell do they do...??

Mar 13, 2013 12:17AM


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Mar 11, 2013 3:19AM
I went to the local post office saturday and on their BB was a notice of openings and that they are hireing, go figure!
Mar 10, 2013 11:37PM

Over the years....I have used USPS,UPS,FedEx,AirBorne,DHL and other express carriers, from a Corporate...My wife's business used them years ago also(about 3 services) if she didn't deliver themselves....I hope they all survive and do not want the USPS to falter in any way...They are.

I believe they are long over due for revamping and more cost cutting....

I also believe they could cut cost by 10% per year over the next 3 years for a total of 30% reduction in operational expenses....They won't try and nobody is making them.


Yes back in the day,(of Pony Express) there was a Post Office, Bank, Mercantile/Hardware, Whorehouse and Saloon, Jail and a Church in every Village and Town..

Post Offices are no longer needed in some of them...The other biz locations, maybe ?


As far as mail, we could do without delivery on Saturdays except Packages, maybe.?

We still use mail, for sending in bills and checks, same for receiving, we probably won't change.

Also mail cards and then Christmas time, we like the personal touch..

But facing reality...E-mailing and convo by electronic means has far outpaced anything the POs could have ever dreamed of....There is a whole world at a touch of a button or a click away. 

Mar 10, 2013 11:08PM

Now back to running Post Offices out of a Kiosk...

First off, never mentioned closing down Distribution Centers..

They are very important for routing our mail across the Nation and Internationally.


There are thousands of POs across this Country...I don't believe any of them should be closer then 20 miles from each other, except in larger Metro Areas...You would never be further then 10 miles from a Post Office..Unless you really lived far out in God's country...?


My Rural Carrier has told me that they have a Post OFc. in their back seat...And can just about do anything that can be done at the PO, except maybe a lot of large packages, I give them money,they can sit up a book or small account for us, or bring back change a day later, if they don't have it.

Can work great for E-Bay sellers..

UPS goes by us almost on a daily basis..They will do the same thing. If I put out a sign to stop.


We have 1000s upon 1000s of Malls, Strip malls and Business conclaves...Having a Kiosk in their midst is no biggie....Great for getting postage,mailing anything up to small priorty packages..

One person, no heat or light bills...Maybe no overhead ?? Malls might welcome the Service.

It would give them traffic..Pick-ups could be 2-3 times a day or more...It's really quite simple.

Stamps are sold out of machines, even now you can get them at ATMs of Banks..Cost more.


Other carriers have been doing operations like this through other Vendors for years, why not the Post Office??

It just isn't that difficult to accompli**** all about mindsets and Ivory Towers..and Power.

Mar 8, 2013 7:33PM
 check with our great black king its all his fault    why in the hell cant someone get him out of office
Mar 9, 2013 3:29PM

Except for most of the assinine remarks, some other's make sense.


There are thousands of Post offices open in rural or small town Americana, many are not needed by any stretch of the imagination.....Same as Saturday deliveries.


The Postal Regime has never tried to save money...Never will, until FORCED.

All Post Os should consolidate if they are within 20 miles of each other, except in Major Metropolitan

areas....Where they are always busy...Like License Bureaus..DMVs.


If anyone wants to save a building, let it be done privately, by an Organization, using only their monies and maybe a little property tax cut...Then see how many are worth saving ??


We have Ancient Heritage Sites all over the U.S. from long before Europeans set foot on these shores....How many of them have been "preserved well". ????

Mar 8, 2013 8:53PM
The postal service was created when their was a huge need to have the ability to communicate cheaply.  With the internet and phone text the postal system processes advertisment's more than anything else.  It's use is very limited. 
Mar 9, 2013 12:04AM
I"d like to see them sell 95% of the postal buildings in the Country.
Mar 9, 2013 1:01AM
there old and there not useful anymore ..cost big dallors to heat and cool them.
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