In the recently approved federal appropriations bill, Congress made clear its intent that the U.S. Postal Service follow existing federal laws and regulations and protect the nation’s many historic post offices. A story this week in the Washington Post, sent to me by one of my MTSU colleagues, emphasized the preservation effort in the northeast United States and quoted, Steve Hutkins, a New York University professor who “has been troubled by the increasing number of buildings the USPS has been trying to sell since the agency tried to close his rural outpost in New York’s Hudson Valley.” Hutkins said: “These are historic landmarks that are very important to the community as a public space,” he said. “They were paid for by taxpayers.”
In considering rural Montana’s historic post offices. truer words were never spoken. The state’s federal elected officials have been steadfast in their opposition to recent moves to close Montana’s rural post offices, a stance shared by local government officials, citizen activists, and preservationists.
In my preservation plan survey of 1984-1985, I documented hundreds of Montana post offices, and continued doing the same in the last two years. Why? in most cases the buildings are the only representations of federal government in these communities, the only physical presence of the benefits of citizenship in the United States. Here the federal government touches the lives of local residents on a regular basis. The post offices are public spaces that the virtual reality of the internet cannot replicate. When the post office closes, the community declines: witness the image below from Sanders.
Old Sanders post office, note the replacement metal box
Nor are our rural communities strengthened when the solution becomes the metal postal box, even if gussied up with a plexiglass cover. is this the fate awaiting the rural Montana landscape?
Glentana postal service structure