Something more important than convenience could be lost if the U.S. Postal Service chooses to close the downtown Clearwater Post Office. The post office is located in one of the city's most treasured historic buildings, and the possibility that it could be shuttered and even put up for sale should trouble local preservationists. Those who care about the future of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, should quickly relay their concerns to U.S. Postmaster General John Potter.
The Postal Service has been an excellent steward of the Cleveland Street post office, which was built in 1933. The building's Mediterranean revival architecture, its graceful arches and its extensive use of brass and coquina rock made it a beautiful centerpiece on the city's main street and inspired similar architecture around the downtown.
Thanks to the Postal Service's care of the building, it looks today much as it did when it opened with great ceremony in 1934. A careful restoration of the structure was completed in the 1990s.
The post office is one of the busiest locations downtown, which helps to keep it secure. That would not be the case if the post office moves out. This week, the Postal Service announced that it is considering a list of 1,000 postal facilities that might be closed later this year. Thirteen of the locations are in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando counties. Three of those are in Clearwater: the downtown post office and branches on Clearwater Beach and on U.S. 19 in Countryside.
The closings would create inconvenience for some Clearwater residents, especially those on Clearwater Beach, who would lose both their own beach branch and the next nearest location downtown. But mere inconvenience might not persuade the Postal Service to reconsider, since it has massive money problems.
The Postal Service, which is not tax supported, has been cutting employees, raising postage rates, combining routes, removing mailboxes and instituting other efficiencies, but still it is drowning in red ink. It projects a $7 billion loss this year, and the General Accounting Office has told postal authorities they must cut deeper. Up to 1,000 of the service's 32,741 branches could be closed after Sept. 30, and the Postal Service is also hoping to eliminate Saturday delivery to save money.
The branches being considered for closing are primarily in urban areas where residents have a choice of post offices to use. The Postal Service also has been pushing for people to make greater use of the services offered through its Web site, www.usps.com, where customers can order mailing supplies, arrange for home pickup of a package and print out postage.
If Clearwater's downtown post office is closed and boarded up, the building in which the Postal Service has invested so much money and care for more than 75 years will be exposed to vandals. Also, buildings that are not regularly used and maintained quickly become dilapidated. What a shame it would be to see one of Clearwater's few National Register buildings, and a treasured architectural icon, deserted by its owner and assigned to such a fate.