By Pat Sherman
The La Jolla Historical Society and members of its Save Our La Jolla Post Office Task Force held a press conference outside the threatened Wall Street post office June 6 to announce the historic structure’s inclusion on two esteemed historic preservation lists.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation added the Wall Street site and several other historic post office buildings to its 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, which highlights important examples of the country’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are a risk for destruction or irreparable damage.
“The National Trust is a private, well-funded national organization that promotes preservation, so it’s just very good that they’ve identified this as a very important building — and on a national level,” said the historical society’s interim executive director, Trip Bennett. “We’ve become the poster child, somewhat, for the National Trust and for their effort to save all the post offices.”
La Jolla’s Wall Street post office was one of 4,400 post offices the United States Postal Service (USPS) planned to study for closure last year to reduce its substantial operating shortfall.
When La Jollans were notified that USPS planned to relocate Wall Street’s postal services and sell the building, residents sprang into action, forming a task force to work with USPS to keep the post office open and operating at its current site, or at least preserve its historicity for other community uses.
The San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) also has added the Wall Street post office to its annual list of Most Endangered Historic Resources, noting its “mélange of Spanish architectural styles mixed with Art Deco and WPA Modern” design.
“We respectfully request that the United States Postal Service engage in meaningful conversations with us,” said Dist. 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, addressing a group gathered in front of the Wall Street post office June 6. “We join with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and our own Save Our Heritage Organisation in asking for a transparent and uniform national process from the postal service, one that follows federal preservation laws when considering disposal of these buildings so that we are not needlessly placing the future of many historic post offices at risk.”
In a press release, the National Trust said La Jolla’s “spirited volunteer efforts on behalf of preserving the building — including drafting a National Register nomination, engaging in extensive negotiations with the Postal Service, collecting over 2,3000 signatures for a petition and even writing a song — may yet save the building, but the Postal Services’ accelerated timeframe and lack of timely communications were major obstacles.”
Task force member Joe LaCava said the recognition is a key piece of the puzzle that helps boost the issue into the national spotlight.
“It’s not just La Jollans that love the building and want to preserve it,” he said. “It sends a message to (federal legislators) that this isn’t just another request. This is something special and they ought to take a moment and try to work with us to find a solution that works for the post office and works for the community and the folks that want to preserve these legacy buildings.”
Also highlighted on the National Trust’s list of historic post offices were those in Geneva, Ill., Fernandina Beach Fla. and Gulfport Ms.
Update from the task force
As of June 6 the Wall Street post office remains off the real estate market and open for business. The task force is working closely with Congresswoman Susan Davis and her staff to amend the 21st Century Postal Reform Act (Senate Bill 1789) to protect the 77-year old post office in a variety of scenarios.
Thus far the task force has received letters of support from: Congressmembers Susan Davis and Brian Bilbray; City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner; San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters; State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher; and State Senators Joel Anderson and Christine Kehoe.