The U.S. Postal Service Buzz

The latest word from the United States Postal Service, is that as of August 2013, Saturday letter delivery will cease. Packages will still be delivered on Saturdays and post offices will remain open. In the meantime, post offices continue to close and processing facilities will close, too; thus, staff will be reduced. The reason? The US Postal Service has been operating on a $15.9 billion deficit since last year. They have to reduce that deficit somehow. And with the rise in online bill paying and electronic communication, the postal service simply isn’t what it used to be.

Preservationists, what do you think? So we won’t be getting letters on Saturday. It’s not really a big since the post offices will remain open, which is probably a day that many of us go to the post office. Most of us probably send significantly more electronic messages than snail mail letters, right?  Will we mourn the loss of six day mail delivery, or adjust with the modern times?  In the 1900s-1940s, the mail at Overhills, NC was delivered by train to the post office, which sat adjacent to the tracks. In later years, the post office relocated to another building and trucks delivered the mail. The post office has evolved, just like everything else, however its existence depends on the quantities of mail that we send, which continues to decline.

Jumping to the modern era, do you use email, Facebook, or text messages more than the other? Do you miss the days of emails instead of Facebook messages? (I prefer email over Facebook.) Do you miss the days of instant messenger or do you prefer text messages? Technology continues to change and we all change with it. What will be the fate of the US Postal Service in 100 years?  I would say it depends on what we do as a society.

The issue that remains is the effect that closing small and/or rural post offices will have on our communities. In some towns, there is little more than a post office and a town office in terms of public buildings. Having an individual zip code is important for the identity of towns. In some places, like Ripton, VT, the post office is in a country store. This topic of conversation about post offices came up on PiP back in August 2011. A PiP post from July 2012 talked about the types of buildings in which post offices are located.


The Ripton Country Store located in Ripton, VT.

The Ripton Country Store located in Ripton, VT. (Preservation Photos #53)

What’s your mail preference? What do you think about no more letter delivery on Saturday? What about the closing of small post offices?

U.S. Post Offices

Ripton, VT post office inside the general store.

The press is abuzz with articles about the government’s potential plans to shut down the smaller, less profitable, less used post offices across the country. There have been articles featured in papers from The New York Times to every local paper and news channel and NPR. Even Vermont’s generally anti-anything-preservation-related newspaper, Seven Days, featured a recent article about a small town post office. For a quick news story, check out ABC news and read or listen to the brief. Is your post office on this list? Look it up.

The overview of the news? The US Postal Service is facing $7 billion in debt this year, and predict exponential amounts of debt within the next decade. The Postal Service is considering closing almost 3,700 post offices (mostly in rural areas), ending Saturday delivery, raising stamp prices and changing healthcare benefits for employees.

If these post offices do close, some small communities will no longer have a civic or casual meeting place. Rural areas are difficult to understand if you live elsewhere, but often the post offices serve an important purpose. Residents worry that they will just disappear without a post office and will be metaphorically annexed or forgotten.

Bottom line: the government thinks it is a good idea. The people who will be losing their post offices think it’s a bad idea. For those of you not affected: do you care? What do you think?

Is consolidating post offices a good idea? Or is it one of those ideas like shutting down neighborhood schools and consolidating them into larger schools? In my opinion, it’s like the latter idea. It seems to me that finding a community gets harder and harder in this age, and erasing something that creates and enables community is not a good idea. Find a better way to solve the post office deficit. Perhaps not sending the junk mail telling me that I can buy stamps online will help. Just a thought.

While on the subject of post offices, does anyone else think that most of them are in hideous buildings: strip malls or vinyl sided, just-plain-ugly buildings? No wonder why no one wants to use a post office!? I love when I can walk into a post office in a historic building – that is the experience people need in order to appreciate the post office.

If writing one real letter per month would help to save the small post offices, would you do it? I love writing and receiving real letters. Granted, I love email, blogs and the internet, but something about a letter or a postcard is so much more thoughtful. Would you ever write a sincere thank you note via email? Just curious.

In a restaurant in Bethel, VT.

What do you think? Are post offices vital to communities? Is your post office vital to you and your community? What about Saturday delivery? (I’d rather keep Saturday delivery and get rid of Monday or Wednesday if we had to. You?) I consider this a preservation issue, how about you?