Why We Need To Save Our Historic Post Office Buildings

houma louisiana post office

While traveling around the U.S. many historic sites include old post office buildings. The historic appeal of some of these structures has to do with their architectural style, the era in which they were constructed and some of the unique artwork found on their walls and ceilings.

bronx post office

Bronx Post Office Bldg

While these buildings were built to handle mail, some indeed are more like living museums and are important to a communities history. Some are in historic districts and are visited by tourists.

The USPS idea of selling off post office buildings has met with solid opposition from preservation groups from coast to coast. The sales were going to go ahead without adequate time for public comment and fortunately this opposition has had some positive effect.

The Need For Money Meets the Need For Historic Preservation

The USPS has been putting post office buildings, many quite historic, on the selling block  along with an effort to cut back mail delivery to five days a week to help save an estimated $20 billion over the next several years. Their plan to sell some of the larger buildings raises cash faster but the downside of course is that many of the larger facilities have a lot of history attached to them.

old philadelphia post office

Old Philadelphia Main Post Office Building

Architecture Heritage At Risk

Local post office buildings have traditionally played an essential role in the lives of millions of Americans. Many are architecturally distinctive, prominently located, and cherished as civic icons in communities across the country.

Unless the U.S. Postal Service establishes a clear, consistent process that follows federal preservation law when considering disposal of these buildings, a large part of the nation’s architectural heritage will be at risk.

What is key in this controversy are the historic buildings planned for sale and the fact that some are planned for sale to developers. The U.S. Postal Service is required to take several steps before actually selling a building. After announcing their intent to sell a property, it is required to hold a public meeting and a comment period for feedback.

houma louisiana post office

Houma Louisiana Post Office constructed in 1935

Only after this is completed is the USPS allowed to make a final decision about selling. In this respect, some in the opposition feel that due process has been worked around. Others protest the dual roles that developers have had in the actual sale of buildings. On the flip side of this and a major concern for the USPS, holding on to an old building no matter how historic it might be requires a lot of funds for it’s upkeep.

Bronx General Post Office

One very historic structure is the Bronx General Post Office, and it’s beautiful murals  by artists Ben Shahn and Bernarda Bryson Shahn which, was built during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The USPS believes that the Bronx Post Office has a value of around $14 million. The building went on the market in January 2014.

It was announced in September 2014 that Youngwoo & Associates has purchased the historic Bronx General Post Office.

Berkeley California Post Office Building

The Berkeley Post Office building is located within the city’s Civic Center Historic District and was built in 1914-1915 in the Renaissance Revival-style. The historic post office lobby has a mural by Suzanne Scheuer depicting Berkeley’s history and a limestone bas-relief by David Slivka on the exterior arcade wall are two examples of New Deal-era works of art.

In regards to the building’s sale, Berkeley residents have shown up in droves to city council meetings and hearings with the postal service to voice their concerns. Some city officials, including Mayor Tom Bates, have thrown their support behind efforts to fight the sale of this iconic Berkeley California structure.

As of September 9, 2014, The Berkeley City Council passed a Zoning Overlay.  After a second reading at the next Council meeting, the Zoning Overlay Ordinance will become law. The Berkeley Zoning Overlay provides protections for the Post Office, Old City Hall, and our historic Civic Center against commercial development.

Philadelphia Main Post Office

This very historic post office building in Philadelphia was sold to the University of Pennsylvania for $50.6 million.  now is planning to sell the iconic building to Brandywine Realty Trust, owner of the nearby Cira Centre, for $20 million.

Brandywine Realty Trust completed a $252 million renovation of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Main Post Office, converting the building into office space. While taking on one of the largest historic rehabilitation projects in the nation, Brandywine modernized and retrofitted the building while maintaining its designation as a national historic site.

Brandywine also built a $90 million parking garage to support the new office space, and serve future development.

berkely california historic post office

Beautiful architecture of the Berkeley Post Office Bldg constructed in 1914-15

The National Trust For Historic Preservation

The National Trust For Historic Preservation has outlined goals regarding the sale of post office buildings. These are as follows…

  • Work directly with the U.S. Postal Service and other federal agencies to develop a consistent,  public process that follows established federal preservation law and protects those historic post office buildings identified for closure or sale.
  • Promote and support successful advocacy campaigns for saving post offices around the country.
  • Identify and encourage sensitive and appropriate reuses for post office buildings.
  • Support policy and legal solutions that encourage the preservation and reuse of post offices nationwide.

For more information on the status of post office building sales, see website http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/11-most-endangered/locations/historic-post-office.html

You may also enjoy our Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Historic Carnegie Libraries

Barrio de Analco and America’s Oldest House

While the USPS has an urgent need to cut losses and raise money, we believe that the sale of old post office buildings, particularly one’s that have high historic value, must be approached with preservation concerns high on the list.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos in the public domain)

 

A Visit to Fiesta Santa Fe 2014

fiesta santa fe events

Attractions in Santa Fe New Mexico includes many celebrations and cultural events throughout the year. Fiesta Santa Fe is one that you don’t want to miss.

Over 300 years old, Santa Fe’s biggest celebration is a ten-day series of bailles, processions, parades, and musical performances which is all a part of Fiesta de Santa Fe. The historic capital of Santa Fe is one of the oldest in the United States. The capital was established by Don Juan de Oñate at San Gabriel in 1598. It was relocated over 30 miles south to the foot of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains where Santa Fe was founded in 1610.

As a side note, the site of San Gabriel is a National Historic Landmark and is located on the Río Grande in the northern region of present-day New Mexico. A cross and a memorial mark the site which is accessible to the public.

fiesta santa fe dance

Fiesta Santa Fe dance exhibitions

The Beginnings of Fiesta de Santa Fe

Fiesta de Santa Fe is one of the largest annual events in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is all about a celebration of cultures (Spanish and Native American) coming together in peace.

It commemorates the time in 1692 that Diego de Vargas reentered Santa Fe, twelve years after the Pueblo Revolt drove the Spaniards out of Nuevo Mexico.

Fiesta de Santa Fe honors and preserve the annual commemoration in the spirit and letter outlined in the 1712 Santa Fe City Council Proclamation which was formally signed twenty years after Spanish reconquest.

In 1712, the governor of the province of Nuevo México through his Captain General and spokesman, Juan Paez Hurtado, proclaimed that year and each thereafter a Fiesta would be held specifically honoring the bloodless reconquest of Santa Fe twenty years prior. It was decreed that the Fiesta should be one of religious thanksgiving and general celebration. The nine men whose signatures were affixed to the document obligated themselves and posterity to this perennial festival for all future time.

fiesta santa fe events

The Santa Fe plaza during Fiesta Santa Fe

The Actual Reconquest of Santa Fe

The fact is that ever since the Spaniards were expelled from Nuevo Mexico due to the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, the government in Mexico was planning for an eventual reconquest.

The reconquest of Santa Fe and Nuevo Mexico is often referred to as a “bloodless reconquest“. After several attempts, Diego de Vargas entered Santa Fe on September 14, 1692 and took control of the Santa Fe plaza. There was a short confrontation with Indians followed by a peaceful agreement.

This reconquest reestablished the Roman Catholic Church in Santa Fe after the churches had been destroyed and the friars slaughtered during the 1680 revolt.

It was also very important to Spain that Nuevo Mexico be retaken to solidify Spain’s presence in the region especially with the French expansion into the plains region from the Great Lakes.

De Vargas journeyed back to Mexico in 1693 for the purpose of leading colonists back north. There were a few settlers that did stay in the north after the Pueblo revolt but there were not many. There also were settlers in Mexico and around El Paso who didn’t relish going back north. Nevertheless, colonists were gathered together and the journey back to Santa Fe commenced.

During de Vargas’ second reentry into Santa Fe in 1693 the situation was a bit different. Many historians consider the reconquest to have taken place over the years 1693-1704. It took time for Spain to truly bring their rule to the greater region.

Many Pueblo Indians welcomed the Spaniards back but a good many also did not. Those who did welcome the Spanish back were hoping that the Spanish presence would help stop raids against them from Apaches and Navajos. It actually took some bloody conflicts in an assortment of pueblos before Spain truly had control of the region.

Today’s Fiesta Santa Fe

Thousands of people return every year to Fiesta Santa Fe in celebration of 300 year old customs. Enjoy legendary crafts, music, dancing, food and pageantry. Many Fiesta goers discover local cuisine and regional wines at both gourmet restaurants and food booths lining the plaza.

You may enjoy the articles from Trips Into History and our Western Trips site on the links below…

Barrio de Analco and the Country’s Oldest House

Historic Dining Cars of the Santa Fe Railroad

A Drive from Santa Fe to Taos New Mexico

santa fe fiesta plaza photo

Santa Fe’s plza at sunset during Fiesta 2014

La Fiesta de Santa Fe is a celebration created by the conquistadors who helped establish colonies here. Fiesta de Santa Fe has a special place in the hearts of Santa Feans.

Fiesta attendees can celebrate culture and history by retracing the actual steps of the city’s ancestors through the center of town, or by joining a candlelight procession on the last day of the Fiesta.

Each spring the Fiesta Council holds a contest in which local men and women compete to play the roles of General Don Diego de Vargas and La Reina de la Fiesta de Santa Fe. Reenactments of the Knighting and Coronation of Don Diego de Vargas and La Reina de Santa Fe are highlights of the annual festival.

pet parade santa fe fiesta

Fiesta Santa Fe Pet Parade

Plan Your Visit

One must visit attraction in Santa Fe is Fiesta Santa Fe. Santa Fe’s Fiesta is held the second weekend of September. Fiesta is attended by people throughout the world and hotel reservations are generally required well in advance.

The following websites will give you much more information about Fiesta Santa Fe and the events included…

santafefiesta.org

santafeselection.com

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

 

Along the Mighty Mississippi / Travel the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway

great river route illinois

One of the best trips available to anyone wanting to explore our country’s history are the many scenic byways found east and west and everywhere in between. One of the most popular of these highways runs along the eastern bank of the Mississippi River and makes a great family trip back into history.

In southwestern Illinois, locals as well as tourists have a very unique trail to explore. For thirty-three scenic miles is The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route which was made an Illinois State Scenic Byway on June 8, 1998. There are no fees along the byway proper and ferries on the byway are free.

great river route illinois

Great River Route

The Historic Mississippi

All through history, the Mississippi River impacted numerous lives: the Dakota, Chippewa, and Hopewell societies; early French voyagers; African-Americans looking for opportunity on the Underground Railroad; and a lot of people more. Through its beguiling stream towns and metropolitan urban communities, notable locales and social antiques, today’s Great River Road still connects communities, individuals, and history.

The Great Rivers Meet

This stretch where the Mississippi River meets the Missouri is an historic site. The Mississippi, a working waterway, is additionally an ecological fortune. Memorable eighteenth century waterway towns, islands, bars, focuses, and twists make excellent view underneath limestone feigns that are secured by timberlands reaching out over about 20,000 sections of land.

Following are just a few of the many attractions and historic sites along and near to the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route.

meeting of the great rivers scenic highway

Great Rivers highway north of Alton, Illinois

The National Great Rivers Museum

Opened in October 2003, this excellent and well laid out museum is committed to telling the story of everyday life on the Mighty Mississippi River and how it has molded our society, history, economy, biology and individuals. The National Great Rivers Museum has more than 20 interactive displays concentrating on the cycles of the waterway, nature, scow activity, water utilization and plenty more.

A plethora of history relating to life on the waterway and a complete explanation of why we need locks on the river for efficient transportation. The museum offers reasons why all should take an interest in the preservation of our country’s rivers. The National Great Rivers Museum is located at 2 Lock and Dam Way, Alton, Illinois.

Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower

The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower is the gateway to the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. The northern tower features a visitors center. When you’re at the visitors center you can plan your thirty-three mile journey down the scenic byway. The visitors center features videos and graphic displays that tell stories of history, wildlife and communities all along this historic and scenic path

The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower is located in Hartford, Illinois. This is two miles from the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. The Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower was built in commemoration of the historic expedition to the northwest and the Pacific. The tower which is 180 feet tall offers visitors three viewing areas at the 50, 100 and 150 foot levels. These connect the two towers that were built to represent Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The location of the towers is at 435 Confluence Tower Dr., Hartford, Illinois.

Wood River Museum and Visitors Center

The Wood River Heritage Council has worked diligently to preserve the town’s history. The Wood River Museum and Visitors Center is the place to visit to learn all about area events such as the Wood River massacre of 1814, the Flood of 1915, Olde Towne. and the history of Standard Oil’s impact on the community. The museum is located at 40 W. Ferguson Avenue, Wood River, Illinois.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles found on the links below…

A Drive on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Scenic Byway

Michigan’s Copper Harbor Scenic Byway

meeting of the great rivers map

Meeting of the Great Rivers Map

 

Pere Marquette Cross

French explorer Louis Joliet and Jesuit priest Father Jacques Marquette led the first French expedition down the Mississippi River in June of 1673 in search of the Pacific Ocean.

Their expedition followed the Mississippi River south to the mouth of the Arkansas River. When reaching that point the Native Americans they encountered told them they were only about ten days away from the Gulf of Mexico. The expedition leaders decided to turn around for home lest they be captured by either the Indians or the Spaniards.

There were positive things that came from the expedition although finding the Pacific Ocean was not one of them. Marquette and Joliet were credited with establishing relations with the Native American tribes that they met along the way. What they learned of the area eventually led to the French taking possession of Louisiana.

lewis & clark towers harford illinois

Lewis & Clark Towers, Hartford, Illinois

Cut from a solid piece of dolomite, the Pere Marquette Cross is seven feet six inches high. It is located on a ledge of a bluff that overlooks the Illinois River. Two flights of dolomite stairs lead from the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail to the cross. The Pere Marquette monument is located 4 1/2 miles east of the main Park entrance on the Great River Road.The location is 13122 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, Illinois.

More Information

The north end of this scenic route is at the Pere Marquette State Park. The southern end of the route is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

For more information about planning a trip along the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route, check out the websites listed below.

Greatriversbywway.com

Meeting of the Great Rivers Visitors Guide

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Route map image courtesy of the Dept of Transportation, Great River Route Highway Photo and Lewis & Clark photo courtesy of the Federal Highway Dept. Great Rivers Highway photo north of Alton, Illinois courtesy Kbh3rd, CC 3.0 license.)

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve / Hard to Reach But Worth It

serpentine hot springs alaska

Here on Alaska’s remote Seward Peninsula, the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve stands as a monument to the ancient migration of Asians to the North American continent. The people who made this migration about 13,000 years ago, eventually moved south and southeast and became the Native populations of North, Central and South America.

bering land bridge photos

Bering Land Bridge tors and rugged landscape

Today, there is about 55 miles of water that separates Alaska from Siberia. This was once dry land. This land bridge, known as Beringia, was at one time 1,000 miles wide and allowed for this large ancient migration into the Americas. In the present day U.S., these peoples populated from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

It’s Remote / The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve was established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act on December 2, 1980.

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve could be one of the most unique of all North American preserves. Here is just one example of this. The Natives of the area have the same traditions and language as do those living across the Bering Strait in Russia.

alaska tundra photo

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve tundra

The Bering Land Bridge Nat’l Preserve offers visitors a total remote experience. The preserve is in the wilderness. No services or roads are available in this park.

According to the NPS, “backcountry campers can hike the rugged granite tors , glimpse raptors and waterfowl, explore ancient lava fields, and relax in the Serpentine Hot Springs” There is a bunkhouse near the Springs but understand that it is available on a first come, first serve basis. This National preserve offers a wild backcountry experience and could make a perfect adventure for someone looking for a completely new experience.

Wild Animals of the Seward Peninsula

Wild animals seen in the preserve include brown bears, muskox, caribou, reindeer, moose and beaver.

The muskox, once extinct in Alaska due to massive hunting, is a very interesting specie that has made an amazing engineered come back. At one time long ago, the prehistoric looking muskoxen roamed the now remote Alaskan tundra alongside the woolly mammoths. The males are known for their thick coats and the strong musky odor and are really more like goats and sheep rather than oxen. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the come back of this specie to Alaska was accomplished as follows….

“Muskoxen from Greenland were brought to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1930, and a small group transplanted to Nunivak Island in 1935-36, where they have thrived. In 1970, thirty-six of the Nunivak Island animals were transplanted near the Feather River, 36 miles from Nome. A second transplant followed in 1981, with the release of thirty-five more animals at the Port Clarence Coast Guard Station, 15 miles west of Teller. The latest count of muskoxen on the Seward Peninsula shows their numbers approaching 3,000.”

Thanks to these translocations for cultural and economic reasons, the muskox herds appear to be thriving on the Seward Peninsula and in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Getting There

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, covering 2.7 million acres and over 4,200 square miles, is open year round. With that being said, flights into and out of the preserve are of course determined by the weather.

A visit to this preserve requires planning. During the summer season access is by bush plane, small boat or on foot. Only certain aircraft operators are permitted to land in the preserve. During the winter season access can be by bush planes on skis, snowmobiles or dog sleds. You will want to visit the Preserve’s Administrative Offices and Visitor Center in Nome.

Nome Alaska is not on the state’s highway system. Transportation to Nome is generally by commercial airline. There are no roads to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve from Nome. Once you’re in Nome, getting to the preserve is only by the means listed above.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

 Pacific Coast Lighthouses / Point Pinos

The California Chinese and the Napa Valley Wine Caves

Two publications you may be interested in include…

Landcover Mapping for Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Northwestern Alaska, published by the NPS.

Another is Trekking Across Beringer by author John Hemming.

serpentine hot springs alaska

Serpentine Hot Springs and bunkhouse

Anybody planning a visit should bring with them all  necessary food, supplies and equipment. Pack absolutely everything you’ll need.

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is a very unique National Preserve which  can be a fun and educational historic trip for adventurist travelers. Hiking, camping, viewing the remote Alaskan wildlife and vegetation makes for a great time in one of the most remotest outposts on the North American continent.

(Article copyright Trips Into History. Photos are public domain and courtesy NPS)

A Visit to the Gatekeeper’s Museum / Tahoe City CA

truckee river dam

The Gatekeeper’s Museum

Consider visiting the Gatekeepers Museum which offers a fascinating look into the history of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Gatekeepers Museum is located where the outlet for the Truckee River begins from Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, California. This would be on the western shore of Lake Tahoe. The Gatekeeper’s Museum is located in William B. Layton Park behind Fanny Bridge at 120 West Lake Boulevard. As of this writing, the Gatekeeper’s Museum is open  May through September from 10am to 5pm daily, except Tuesdays, and the rest of the year on weekends only between 11am and 3pm.

lake tahoe museums

Gatekeeper’s Museum, Tahoe City, CA

The existing Gatekeeper’s cabin is a reconstruction of the original cabin built in 1910 in the same location. The original cabin which was built by Robert Montgomery Watson burned down in the early 1980′s.The fire was believed to be arson.

The Gatekeeper’s cabin was originally built to be the home of the “watermaster” who controlled the water flow out of Lake Tahoe. This job would also be described as the “dam attendant“.

The cabin/museum displays Tahoe history, from the Washoe people through the logging and mining eras and the beginning of the tourism industry at Lake Tahoe. Museum exhibits include Native American baskets, resort memorabilia, historical photographs, clothing, oral histories, maps, archival documents, newspapers, and artifacts.

lake tahoe hiking trails

Cottonwood Trail Head at Layton Park, Tahoe City CA

Layton Park

The Gatekeeper’s Museum is located inside Layton Park. Long before this spot was named Layton Park it was a summer home to the Washoe Indians. This was so for thousands of years while the Washoe traveled from the lower elevations of Nevada to the high elevation of what is now Tahoe City. Today, those visiting the Gatekeeper’s Museum and Tahoe City may enjoy a short hike around Layton Park’s “Cottonwood Trail” . This is a loop path that gives you the chance to view a large number of trees, bushes and flowers that are native to the area.

You should be able to pick up a brochure at the trail head which will explain the numerical markers seen along the trail. Near the trail head you’ll also see an exhibit of the old Tahoe Firehouse.

truckee river dam

Truckee River Dam at the Lake Tahoe shoreline

The Truckee River

The Truckee River Basin covers an area of approximately 3,060 square miles in the states of California and Nevada. The river’s basin stretches in a generally north by northeast direction from Lake Tahoe, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the border between California and Nevada. The Truckee river water flows to Pyramid Lake, located about 50 air miles away from Lake Tahoe in the desert of northwestern Nevada. The Truckee River is 105 miles in length.

The Truckee River is the only outlet from Lake Tahoe. The Truckee River is a great place to fish, ride a raft down the rapids, or do some casual sightseeing, all depending on which length of the river you happen to be on at the time. Tourists are gleefully informed of the famed “fanny bridge” or “rump row” which is viewed by sightseers leaning over to look at the river below.

Exploring Lake Tahoe

The earliest known inhabitants of the Tahoe Basin were the nomadic predecessors to the Washoe, Maidu and Paiute Indian Tribes. These tribes existed during the Middle Archaic Period and reportedly returned to the area seasonally to collect medicinal plants, hunt, fish and create stone tools.

lake tahoe dam

Map of the Gatekeeper’s Museum and Truckee River Dam location in Tahoe City, CA

The first European to set eyes on lake Tahoe was John C. Fremont. Fremont came across Lake Tahoe in February of 1844. Along with his exploration party was Kit Carson. Fremont first observed Lake Tahoe from what is today, Carson Pass.

At this time the Lake Tahoe shoreline was inhabited mostly by the Washoe tribe. Interestingly enough the lake had various names until it was officially named Lake Tahoe in 1945. The state line between California and Nevada passes roughly through the middle of Lake Tahoe.

In the 1850′s the California Gold Rush and people resettling resulted in heavy wagon train traffic through what is today Highway 50. Then, wagon traffic was so heavy the route was called the Roaring Road. Today Highway 50, passing over Echo Summit, is the main  route for motorists driving from Sacramento or the Bay Area to South Lake Tahoe. Interstate 80 is the more direct route taken to Donner Pass, Truckee, and the ski areas west and north of the lake.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

 A Visit to Old Town Sacramento

Nevada City California and the Lady Gambler

tahoe city california

Tahoe City, California

Tahoe City California

Tahoe City is located on the western shore of Lake Tahoe about 14 miles southeast of Donner Pass. The area was surveyed in 1863 with the Tahoe House built one year later. The town was a stop over point for people traveling to and from the Nevada Comstock Lode. First named simply Tahoe, the name was changed to Tahoe City in 1949.

Today, Tahoe City California is a major tourist destination on Lake Tahoe. During the summer months Tahoe City is a place for rafting, hiking, biking, boating and all types of watersports plus golf and horesback riding. During the winter months Tahoe City is all about snow and all snow sports. Plenty of attractions in Tahoe City and Lake Tahoe to make a vacation or long weekend a great time.

( Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)