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Post Offices in a Foggy World: Understanding the Value of the New Deal Post Office and its Public Art in the National Landscape

Reiter, Barrett

The one thousand New Deal era post offices with interior art (commissioned under the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts) that are spread throughout the nation, are representative not only of architectural norms of the era but of social values. These resources are defined by a unique relationship between art, architecture, and community that demonstrate a concern for regional identity, state a belief in equal access, assert that citizens are entitled to aesthetically beautiful environments and cultural experiences, and stand as crucial remnants of an exceptional moment in American history. Yet today, recent divestments of post offices by the United States Postal Service (USPS) have cast doubt on the future of a number of these significant historic resources. Although the speed of divestments is largely in keeping with historic trends, recent perceptions of a heightened threat (particularly due to the concentration of sales in California) has initiated a broad discussion around the ways in which properties are sold and reused. As the USPS continues to downsize, and with the innovations in technology that are driving mail services into the digital realm, the vast majority of the USPS’s purpose-built properties will no longer have a future as post offices. Instead, these structures, if they are to remain a part of the nation’s built heritage, must find new uses. Through examining the historical moment in which these structures were created, the policy issues and procedures of contemporary divestment processes, and the methods employed to reuse previously divested post offices, this thesis codifies the significance of these structures, and provides recommendations for the successful reuse and reintegration of historic post offices from the 1930s, with interior Section artwork, in the national landscape.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Dolkart, Andrew S.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 20, 2016
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