Throwback Thursday: A look back at area post offices

Throwback Thursday: A look back at area post offices

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In a day when many prefer to send emails, it is nostalgic to remember the significance of post offices.

At the Southington post office, a mural painted 75 years ago hangs in the lobby, providing customers with a glimpse back in time. In the mid-20th century in Meriden and Wallingford, both towns had multiple postal offices.

In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the New Deal, providing immediate economic relief and the reform of various industries, including agriculture, finance, and labor. Agencies such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps were established to help alleviate high unemployment by providing short-term work. 

As part of the New Deal, the Treasury Department built or expanded 25 Connecticut post offices and commissioned just as many murals in the offices over the next decade, according to the New England Historical Society. 

Artists were also struggling during the Great Depression, so the murals were a chance to support them. Notable post office mural painters included Reginald Marsh, Rockwell Kent, Philip Guston and Ben Shahn. 

In the lobby of the Southington Post Office, 215 Main St., the mural depicts a spanning green field with horses and farmers working to bail hay. There are lush mountains in the background and a corn field to the side. In the distance you can see the town, with a white-steeple church and a red factory with billowing smoke. 

Ann Hunt Spencer was commissioned to paint  “Romance in Southington,” in 1942. Spencer studied art in Paris and received the Kosciuszko Foundation's scholarship in 1937 for study and travel in Poland, according to the New England Historical Society. 

The Southington mural is believed to depict the First Congregational Church and the Peck, Stow & Wilcox Factory, in a complex last used by Ideal Forging before its demolition in 2015. 

Years after the New Deal ended in 1937, the Meriden Post Office expanded its office to include an annex. 

The annex, situated at the corner of Grove and Washington Streets, provided consolidation of the parcel post department, which was previously handled in the Grillo Building across the street from the post office. 

At the time of its opening in February 1955, the additional building did not mean an increase in staff, as the current clerks were shuttled back and forth from offices instead. 

In 1963, Wallingford demolished its 60-year-old post office on the corner of Center and Main streets in preparation for the construction of a new federal building for combined postal operations. 

The former postal department had a building downtown on South Colony Road that handled incoming mail and the main post office on Center Street processed outgoing mail. The postal authorities at the time recognized a need for larger facilities, especially in light of the town’s post-war growth in population. 

When the main post office closed, former postmaster Peter McLaughlin said, “We just couldn’t alternate the postal workers under these conditions which I don’t think were economical or feasible. But I know we are headed toward a more efficient operation when the new building is completed.”

The larger federal building opened in the spring of 1964. While the new building was being finished, the town postal service worked out of the basement of the First Methodist Church, selling stamps and boxes. Incoming and outgoing mail was processed at a building leased from Wallace Silversmiths, which was designated as the local post office annex. 

The larger building was designed by Fletcher-Thompson, Inc., of Bridgeport. The two-floor structure, which still houses the present-day postal office, encompassed over 22,000 square feet. The General Services Administration agreed to allow the town to widen portions of Main and Center Streets during construction, to allow for better parking near the building.
Twitter: @baileyfaywright


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