Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Post Office on Hamilton Street, Palo Alto

On our list of errands was a stop by the post office to mail a gift to New York. The closest one to us was this Hamilton Street branch. I already liked the facade so told the kids to "hold that pose."

Palo alto post office
Love the grillwork at the top
The last time I was in a US Post Office was at a typically utilitarian one at the Ala Moana shopping mall in Honolulu. I didn't expect this post office to be any different so I was surprised when I walked in and saw this.

palo alto post office

I was fascinated with the grills, the exposed wooden beams, the lighting fixtures, and the patterned floor. The PO boxes looked like they were straight from set of a period film.

Original ornate brass PO boxes
The kids were not interested in the interiors and was wondering why I was oohing and aahing, taking pictures of everything. They were more thrilled seeing and experiencing a real working post office.  I don't think they have ever been to the main post office in Makati. Come to think of it, neither have I.

post office

They wasted no time trying to figure out how to use the Priority Mail envelopes and the self-serve station. They weighed their package, wrote the label and then got the rate by punching the zip code into the machine.

kids at post office
Package to Sloatsburg costs...
They could've printed out the stamp and dropped the package right here but they still wanted to talk to a live person and see exactly what a post office clerk does.  I think they also wanted to make sure their package was in good hands, and not just dropped into an impersonal box.

This post office was built in the 1930's by Birge Clark, Palo Alto's first architect. Clark was also responsible for designing many other Palo Alto landmarks, giving the city a cohesive Spanish Revival feel, or something Clark liked to call "early California." 

In the 30's, space was not a premium and lots of people were probably coming in to mail letters and packages, perhaps even socializing here like a community center. But in this age of email plus other alternatives for sending parcels around the country, dedicating all this space to a post office seems like a waste of prime property.

It didn't surprise me then when the post office staff mentioned they were moving to a smaller location sometime soon.

kids at post office 

The post office experience must've made quite an impression on the kids because when we got home from this trip, they promptly set up a "post office" in their room complete with free envelopes and lots of stamping paraphernalia.

kids at post office

For a couple of weeks they got everyone in the house to write notes to each other,  which they  delivered to the rooms in the evening (for a fee of course, just like in the post office!).

These would look good on my porch trellis
I wonder what will happen to the building when the post office moves out. Would the new tenants preserve the building exactly as is, with grills and light fixtures intact? I look forward to my next trip to see what becomes of this historic building.


Carla Aston said...

What a wonderful space. Love all of, the post boxes, the tile, light fixtures. So cool. Maybe someone will buy it and turn it into a restaurant? So sad that our nation's postal service is withering away.

Marivic said...

I think a home store would be nice too.

niki said...
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