Frist Center for the Visual Arts

photo by: Sanford Myers

April 1, 2013

Signed, Sealed, Reimagined

Historic post offices adapted for new use.

Established in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General, what is now known as the United States Postal Service has, for much of its history, contributed significantly to lives of individuals, the productivity of businesses, and the prosperity of communities. Despite the importance of a federal service for delivering mail, people are visiting post offices less frequently today than ever before. That, combined with difficult financial realities, prompted the USPS in 2011 to propose shuttering some 3,700 post offices nationwide.

More recently the Postal Service has backed off this proposal, instead planning to cut services, in some cases decreasing post office hours to anywhere from two to six hours a day. Many post offices still could be threatened with closure, a reality that compelled the National Trust for Historic Preservation to place historic post offices on its 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places and add the structures to its portfolio of National Treasures.

Although keeping all post offices open in the communities they serve is ideal, that won’t always be possible, leaving an uncertain future for what are often magnificent historic and architecturally important structures. Knowing that in the near future some of these buildings may need to serve purposes different from those for which they were originally designed, we’ve gathered a collection of photographs that illustrates how former post offices can be reinvented as hotels, restaurants, art galleries, offices spaces, and even residences.

Dennis Hockman is editor in chief of Preservation magazine. He’s lived in historic apartments and houses all over the United States and knows that all old buildings have stories to tell if you care to find them.

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