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Sale of Palo Alto post office prompts nostalgia, uncertainty

Original post made on Dec 22, 2011

When Palo Alto's downtown post office opened in 1932 on Hamilton Avenue, it was like no other post office in the nation. But it had one thing going for it: The president of the United States liked it.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 22, 2011, 9:58 AM

Comments (16)

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Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 22, 2011 at 10:37 am

If I had unlimited resources I would buy it and turn it into an alcohol free mixed use art space for the high school crowd -- coffee house, art show, concert venue, open mic, dance, poetry slam, homework habitat, workspace to do charitable works for the community, that kind of thing. And have it run by high school/college kids with strong management by responsible adults with partnerships with locally owned small businesses who could foster teaching kids business and management skills. That's what I would do...

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

We have already had a wonderful church in downtown turned into office space. Borders is vacant and its future is uncertain. The Post Office (which I confess I have never used) also has its future in jeopardy.

I sincerely trust that the use of these buildings in the future will not keep the majority of us out of being able to view them. I wouldn't call these buildings particularly historic but I would call them heritage buildings and as such important for the community as a whole to be able to use.

Please keep our heritage buildings available for public use and patronage - whatever use they next become.

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Posted by Denizen of Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

Becky, I like the way you think! Can you post something on craigslist so that maybe we could start an organization that could think about doing this? With the kind of money in PA, starting a non-profit for the purpose you outlined wouldn't be that difficult.

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Posted by sharin
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Im so sick of losing all the Palo Alto landmarks. Palo Alto is losing all its charm with the infiltration of ugly new buildings, ugly modern condos, stupid startup companies (facebook, etc). Downtown Palo Alto sucks now.

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Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Dec 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

@Denizen I have not had much luck with Craig's List for some other efforts I have undertaken. I end up getting robo-spammed. Maybe I am not using it properly... why don't you post something and I'll look for it... what do you say? Or do you have any other ideas... Thanks, Denizen.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Editor -
I noticed that today's story mentioned the role Herbert Hoover had in authorizing the plans for the old Palo Alto post office. This is something I pointed out in comments to an earlier story on the post office that you ran last week. Web Link
Is this a case of both of us Googling the same story or did my comment prompt the update to the story?
No problem either way - I'm just curious.

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Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Dec 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Hi Steve,

Thank you for your comments. It was actually Palo Alto City Historian Steve Staiger who told me about Herbert Hoover's role in authorizing the plan for the downtown post office.

Also, former mayor and local-history expert Gary Fazzino informed me today that Birge Clarke was close to the First Lady, Lou Henry Hoover, and that its was actually Mrs. Hoover who prevailed upon the president to approve the design.

Thanks again.


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Posted by Denizen of Palo Alto
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Becky and all interested: I set up a posting on CL under Peninsula Activities with the words Post Office in the title.

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Posted by Bambi
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 23, 2011 at 1:41 am

Great story. Sad to think Palo Alto one of the most sought after and expensive areas in the USA can not keep their own Post office / Landmark open. One of our local 5 BIG Developers want to help out? How can we keep from losing such history and architecture and protect our valued Postal offices from disappearing. Ah the internet cause and effect. Paying bills online and keeping us all personally disconnected from our traditions like the Post office line. Hard to believe that will be a mere memory soon. Whats next we pump our own gas and bag our own groceries and pay online and maybe one day we will not even go downtown and run into one another standing in line anywhere. Progress. Apps. Wish I had a crystal ball to see how this all transpires. I will miss the ability to run down to the local Post office. Be bored in line and talk to locals and strangers I meet.

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Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 23, 2011 at 9:50 am

Whatever it becomes please leave the lobby and the exterior intact.
Please don't let it become another Starbucks.

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Posted by USPS parcel customer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Another attempted fire sale liquidation of our dwindling public endowment. What is next to go -- national parks? "Must sell post offices to pay current bills. No discussion, must happen immediately, USPS management knows best. Don't need 20th century relics -- payday loan shops can cover." Hard to believe that the present landmark P.O. can't adapt to 1) support PO boxes and counter service, 2) protect historic character of building, and 3) house profitable businesses in remaining 80 percent to make the venture financially viable. Not the American way? Too bad folks, time to innovate or lose it all.

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I suggest putting the Development Center below Police Services and keeping the Birge Clark as a chill space.

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Actually, now that I read Becky Sanders' post --which I agree with -- it reminds me that I had been meaning to suggest that we could lay off the entirety of our civil servants and replace them with high school kids fulfilling a public service extracurricular -- keeping Jim Keene and maybe Lalo Perez as their gurus -- as sort of a cross between John Wayne "The Cowboys" and Jimmy Stewart's "Mr Smith Goes to Washington". It would work better than what we have now where development staff, planning staff and most others have been beaten into a submission to work for the big six developers and ignore the rest of the 57,000 citizens/ residentialists.

Becky, we do have "unlimited resources" in that there are more of us than there are of them and we have the talent to enact all of these civic enterprises if we can just learn to work together and get our so-called representatives to slow down the pace of the sell-off, to work to the speed of a democracy and not an industry. ("Palo Alto Process" is just a smoke-screen term and propaganda by the developers -- most people agree that after 100 years of legacy burden of proof should be on those who want to change things, not vice versa; I'm an ultra-conservative in that sense).

If our leadership actually votes to change zoning of the post office from public to private then democracy is indeed as dead as Epictetus.

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Posted by Raj Kanodia
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Palo Alto should buy the building and lease it back (or some part of it) to the USPS for a nominal fee. Remaining space, if any, can be used for social services.

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Posted by Marianne Mueller
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

For goodness sake, it's a Birge Clark. I agree with ideas to keep the post office for a community/public use and also keep the "fixtures" aka post office windows, tables, etc as part of the whole.

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Posted by Mrs Mercury
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

The postal service is in trouble, and that's because it's being run as business. It's not a business, it's a vital public service and should be funded by the government. If it were a true business, it wouldn't cost 44 cents to send a letter to remote rural residents, hard-to-reach places, Hawaii and Alaska, etc. The USPS has been given an impossible task, and the degradation of our mail service and wholesale sell-off of its assets is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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