Santa Monica community members and conservationists rallied outside the Work Projects Administration-era post office in downtown on the day of its closing to call for adequate protection of the historic building.
The U.S. Postal Service has relocated retail services from the post office at 1248 Fifth St. in Santa Monica to a carrier annex facility at 1653 Seventh St.
While the Postal Service has said it will ensure the historic characteristics of the Fifth Street building, constructed in 1937, are maintained through covenants conveyed to the future buyer as an attachment to the deed, residents say they want to do all they can to make sure the structure is preserved.
“The conservancy strongly supports an appropriate new use of the structure, but we are very concerned that the post office is closing without any formal protection for its character-defining features,” said Carol Lemlein, conservancy president. “We share the community’s disappointment over the loss of the convenient Fifth Street location, but now we must focus on putting the needed protections in place or we could lose yet another important, iconic downtown building,”
Built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s WPA, the Moderne building with Art Deco appointments opened in July 1938.
Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher noted that the building qualifies for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
According to the conservancy, the post office qualifies as a Santa Monica landmark as one of three WPA buildings in the city, and is distinguished by its Art Deco-inspired features including the detailed paneling and the original lighting fixtures of the lobby.
But Lemlein noted that the current draft of the covenant does not include important character-defining features like the 1937 plaque commemorating the building’s dedication, and could be weakened further in the sale negotiations if the city is not proactive.
“The Landmarks Commission must better define the attributes of the building to be listed in the covenant and the city should agree to accept enforcement responsibility,” she said.
The protection of the post office building is expected to be on the Monday, July 8 Landmarks Commission agenda.