Post Office Relief – Stoneham MA

The Terra Cotta relief entitled “Shoemakers of Stoneham” was carved by William Zorach as a part of the New Deal Section of Fine Arts program funded by the Treasury Department. “[The relief] depicts three men diligently working away constructing shoes. Around them are the tools of their trade: knives, awls, lasting hammers, thread, leather, wooden lasts, pincers, stirrups and lapstones…”

“In selecting a theme for the new Post Office in Stoneham, William Zorach chose to celebrate the skilled artisans of Stoneham’s pre-industrial past. The three shoemakers depicted in the wall sculpture above the Post Master’s door hearken back to a time when shoes were handmade by skilled craftsmen called cordwainers . As far back as the 18th century, Stoneham was known as a town were many cordwainers lived and worked. The title itself carried prestige. Cordwainers were respected citizens, who operated their own independent shops and often trained apprentices in the craft.”

 

Report Tells Congress to Halt Post Office Sell Off

Post Office Protest
Protestors at historic post office in Berkeley, California
Photo Credit: Gray Brechin

Privatizing the postal system—a declared goal of the Republican Party — has led to the sale of hundreds of historic post offices, over 1,100 of which were built under the New Deal. Public opposition to the scheme has been growing nationwide, with the Living New Deal playing a significant role.

In response to the outcry, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has issued a report to Congress expressing “significant concerns” about the lack of transparency and accountability by which the USPS is transferring public property to private ownership.

The Council’s recommendations include a moratorium on the sale of historic post offices around the country and greater protection for the New Deal artworks ornamenting many of the 1930s post offices that, the report notes, “captured the American scene and transformed the post office into a truly democratic art gallery.”

A federal lawsuit brought by the National Post Office Collaborate halted the sale of the post office in Stamford Connecticut, sold to a developer who planned to tear part of it down and put up luxury apartments.

Stamford, Conneticut Post Office
A federal lawsuit brought by the National Post Office Collaborate halted the sale of the post office in Stamford Connecticut, sold to a developer who planned to tear part of it down and put up luxury apartments.
Photo Credit: Save the Post Office

CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate company, has an exclusive contract to sell USPS properties, valued at around $105 billion.  A recent expose found that CBRE is largely owned by Richard Blum, husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein and has led to several Inspector Generals’ investigations.

Widespread citizen action to preserve the postal system includes a landmark lawsuit brought by the National Post Office Collaborate in Berkeley, California that blocked the sale of the historic post office in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Berkeley has become the epicenter of opposition to the sell off.

The ACHP is comprised of presidential appointees, but as its name implies, is merely advisory.  It remains to be seen whether its prestige will alter the rouge course of the USPS.