U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service
Post offices constitute the most common form of Federal government buildings in the nation. Located in large cities, small towns, and rural areas, post offices provide an important presence of the Federal government in communities. They play an essential role in facilitating communication and promoting economic development, reducing the isolation of rural locales, and disseminating products and ideas across geographical areas. Historically, in times of economic stress, the construction of post offices has stimulated local economic recovery and provided work.
Many post offices are significant civic monuments that beautify the cities and towns in which they are located. Architecturally, post offices have served as symbols of the Federal government's authority, conveyed regional historical themes, and exemplified high art forms. Some post offices were designed in an "official" national style and serve as notable examples of classicism in their respective communities. During other phases in the Federal government's public building program, post offices were designed to reflect regional styles and influences. For much of the 19th century and throughout the Depression, artwork, such as ornamental sculptures and murals, was integrated into the architectural design of post offices.
This National Register Bulletin provides guidance on how to apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation to post office buildings. It should be used by anyone evaluating the historic significance of post office buildings or completing a National Register of Historic Places Registration Form (NPS Form 10-900) for a post office building. It should be used in conjunction with National Register bulletins How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation; How to Complete the National Register Registration Form; How to Complete the National Register Multiple Property Documentation Form; Guidelines for Evaluating and Nominating Properties That Have Achieved Significance Within the Last Fifty Years; Guidelines for Local Surveys: A Basis for Preservation Planning; and Researching a Historic Property.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. National Register properties may be of national, State, or local significance. The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior. National Register Bulletins provide guidance on how to identify, evaluate, document, and register important properties.
The intent of this publication is to assist individuals with the evaluation of historic post office buildings. The methodology outlined and the chronology of Federal government building history are useful in evaluating other types of government, civic, and institutional buildings and in increasing public appreciation of their historical and architectural contributions to the life and culture of American cities and towns.
Carol D. Shull
This bulletin was originally prepared by Beth M. (Grosvenor) Boland, Historian, National Register of Historic Places, in 1984. This publication is now in its second edition. The author would like to thank everyone involved with the development and review of the original text. Special thanks go to Emily J. Harris and Antoinette J. Lee, whose studies of U.S. post office and Federal building construction policies contributed substantially to the bulletin's context statement; to Susan Harrison for her bibliographic research; to the late Karel H. Yasko, General Services Administration, for generously sharing his detailed knowledge of Depression Era artwork in Federal buildings; to Rita Moroney for her assistance in using Postal Service records and documents; the staff of the National Archives for guidance in locating and using appropriate record groups; and to John S. Sorenson for numerous consultations on Postal Service organization and policies, and for his efforts to shepherd Postal Service policy toward historic resources surveys and appreciation of the Service's history.
The author also gratefully acknowledges the helpful comments of the following reviewers of the 1984 text: Myra F. Harrison, Charles E. Lee, Knox Mellon, Doug Robertson, J. Walter Roth, Donna J. Schober, Arthur Stewart, Barbara Sudler, Valerie A. Talmage, Cherilyn Widell, and the staff of the National Register of Historic Places, especially Carol Dubie and Bruce MacDougal.
The revised text contains contextual information for evaluating post offices built after World War II, which was derived from Dr. Lee's study of the Office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury.
This publication has been prepared pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, which directs the Secretary of the Interior to develop and make available information concerning historic properties. National Register Bulletin 13 was developed under the general editorship of Carol D. Shull, Chief of Registration, National Register of Historic Places. Antoinette J. Lee, historian, coordinated the publication of the second edition of National Register Bulletin 13, and Tanya M. Velt provided editorial and technical support. Comments on this publication may be directed to Chief of Registration, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 1849 C. St., NW, #2280, Washington, D.C. 20013-7127.
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