Hats Off to La Jolla Post Office! National Register of Historic Places plaque presented Tuesday

The historic La Jolla Post Office, located at 1140 Wall St., has seen a lot since its construction in 1935. Once a critical communication hub, the building has stood the test of time through the digital age. It has outlasted a threat of sale and felt the love of the community that rallied to support it.

And the morning of March 20, the La Jolla Post Office got a new badge of honor: a plaque to recognize its historicity. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, and just got the plaque to prove it. Representatives from the La Jolla Historical Society and local government were on hand to celebrate the commendation.

Seonaid McArthur, chair of La Jolla Landmarks Group (a sub-committee of the La Jolla Historical Society) opened the plaque dedication with a few words: “Think about the time when this post office was completed (following the Great Depression). When it was built, it symbolized security. It was something constant, something permanent for the community at a time that was very scary. The architecture alone speaks to security, speaks of solidity.

“It’s an icon of our community in that it is a Wall Street anchor — the Post Office is on one end and the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library is at the other end.”

Landmarks Group co-chair Ann Craig added: “My husband was an assistant postmaster general in Washington D.C. and so this building was under his jurisdiction. This post office was incredibly important to him. He was instrumental in getting its first plaque installed on the 75th anniversary of the building’s construction. Unfortunately, he died just before that happened, but he would be so proud of this event today.”

District One City Council Member Barbara Bry thanked all those who worked toward making the second plaque become a reality. “What you’ve done today is a tribute to what we can do as a community when we work together,” she said, and joked: “I have been to this Post Office more times than I can count.”

La Jolla Postmaster Anita Real-Castro concluded: “It is such an honor to be the La Jolla Postmaster. This community is amazing and to be part of such monumental moment in our time is wonderful.”

Looking back ...

In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service announced its intention to sell the La Jolla Post Office building, but the community and local government representatives stated their hope to stop the sale and save the building. From 2012 to 2014, the Save the La Jolla Post Office Task Force held protests, conducted surveys and facilitated a letter-writing campaign to elected officials and postal-service personnel, urging cancellation of the sale plan. Since then, the USPS has not pursued it.

La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox explained: “The story starts six years ago, when there was an initiative out of Washington to sell a number of properties around the country to improve the fiscal condition of the postal service. A number of the post offices on that list were historic buildings, this being one of them.

“The communities involved organized themselves and said ‘these buildings are important to us and valuable to our cultural history and we would like to keep them.’ For the better part of three years, the discussion of closing the postal services here and selling off the buildings has been pretty dormant. We hope it will stay that way.”

Of additional note was the preservation of the 1939 Belle Baranceanu mural in the building’s interior, titled “Scenic View of The Village.” The mural was one of two created in La Jolla as part of the FDR’s New Deal works projects following the Great Depression. The other Baranceanu mural was placed in the La Jolla High School auditorium, but was demolished in 1975.

To prepare for the plaque unveiling, the area was re-landscaped with drought-tolerant plantings. The previous vegetation was taken out in January. A larger effort is underway to further landscape the building’s frontage.

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