Since listing Historic Post Offices as one of the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Places
in 2012, we have been arguing loudly and consistently that the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) process for closing and selling its historic buildings is deeply flawed, lacking in public participation, and not in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Many citizens, community activists, and elected officials also have expressed their frustration
with the Postal Service and its unwillingness to listen to local concerns or consider any alternatives that would keep these cherished buildings open and accessible to the public.
While we have catalogued the problems, provided reams of comments to the Postal Service, and suggested many ways in which we could collaborate on solutions that would protect and preserve historic post offices, those comments have largely fallen on deaf ears at USPS. But the thousands of people across the country worried about the fate of their local post office got a huge boost last week, when the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation released its report “Preserving Historic Post Offices: A Report to Congress
Commissioned by Congress as part of the last appropriations bill and written by a subcommittee composed of Advisory Council members and staff, the report evaluates the numerous failings in the Postal Service’s disposition of historic post office buildings and makes a series of 15 recommendations for how the process can and should be improved. It includes the following key recommendations:
- initiating Section 106 consultation as soon as the Postal Service considers closure or relocation, rather than waiting until a decision to sell has already been made;
- working with the National Trust, the Advisory Council and others to develop a model covenant that will adequately protect historic post offices transitioning into new ownership;
- providing training for Postal Service employees on Section 106 and the special considerations of selling historic post offices;
- maintaining ownership of post offices and exploring the potential of leasing them to new users in accordance with Section 111 of the National Historic Preservation Act;
- and, most importantly, suspending any further sales or relocations until the Postal Service fully implements all the recommendations in the report.
| In Berkeley, Calif., signs of protest over privatizing the post office are displayed. | Credit: Steve Rhodes, Flickr
While many other groups have publicly criticized the Postal Service over the last few years and demanded change, the Advisory Council report represents a definitive guide that contains clear instructions on how best to conduct the relocation and sale of historic Postal Service properties, “so that future disposals are better informed by sound planning and meaningful consultation with communities and stakeholders.” A similar report from the Postal Services’ Office of the Inspector General is expected to be released at the end of April, which we believe will only reinforce the Advisory Council’s recommendations and strengthen the call for reform. It is our hope that Congress—which requested the Advisory Council report—will soon take action and demand USPS adopt new and improved procedures that will finally allow the public to play an important role in determining the fate of their local post offices.
Learn about other Post Offices:
City Unites to Save Berkeley's Post Office
Citizens Fight for the Northfield Post Office in Minnesota
Putting a Stamp on History at the Bronx General Post Office
La Jolla Community Continues Fight for Historic Post Office#NationalTreasure #Advocacy #HistoricPostOffices #AdvisoryCouncilonHistoricPreservation