Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

For Sale: Palmer Square Post Office

Anne Levin

The paring down of the United States Postal Service has hit home for Princeton patrons. The agency is planning to sell its Palmer Square station, though a spokesman says no final decision has been made.

“The Postal Service will maintain a retail presence in the community, and there are no plans to close the Princeton Post Office,” said Ray Daiutolo, Postal Service Spokesman, in an e-mail. “You can be assured that postal officials are devoting careful attention and effort to this matter, and customers will be notified in advance of any changes that may occur as a result of this initiative. Again, no move would occur until we have a buyer and have made arrangements for relocating the retail operations to a new location.”

If the agency is able to sell the property, the post office will be relocated to a significantly smaller location in Princeton. The 11,000-square-foot building on Palmer Square is under-utilized, Mr. Daiutolo says, with less than 2,000 square feet currently in operation. Carriers were shifted earlier this year to the post office at Carnegie Center, and some services previously offered at the Palmer Square location are now handled by the West Windsor station.

Assessed at $1.9 million, the Postal Service site is a valuable piece of Palmer Square real estate. According to David Newton, vice-president of Palmer Square Management, this isn’t the first time the Post Office has considered selling the building, which was completed in 1934 before other buildings on the square.

“About 13 years ago or so, there was an attempt to buy it, and nothing materialized,” he said. “It just proved to be somewhat of a controversial and difficult situation.” Asked if any plans are underway for the site, Mr. Newton said nothing is currently in the works. “It’s in the middle of our property, so we’re just interested,” he said. “We’ll see.”

A front-page article about plans for building Palmer Square in the August 28, 1936 Princeton Herald, from the archives of The Historical Society of Princeton, describes the history of the building. The story references a 1929 article which “carried the announcement that President Coolidge had recommended the appropriation of $25,000 to start the construction of a new post office at Princeton. The news was conveyed in a telegram sent to president John Grier Hibben by Congressman Charles Eaton.”

The story continues: “Of all the proposed buildings announced on that day, only the Post Office was completed, and it was not until December, 1934, that that was ready for use.”

A 1939 article in the Princeton Packet describes the painting of the mural on a wall of the post office, “America Under the Palms,” by Karl Free, “the noted artist who did the canvas in his studio.” The artist was commissioned by the section of Fine Arts of the U.S. Treasury Department, the article reads.

In more recent years, Princeton University students have been known to protest outside the post office, saying the subject matter depicting Native Americans cowering in the presence of European settlers is discriminatory. In the 1939 article, it is described as follows: “The subject was chosen by the artist who conferred with members of the Art and Archaeology here in the University, and shows the figure of Columbia at one side and a palm tree with Indians at the other, while in the background can be seen Nassau Hall. Above, floating on clouds, are a couple of cherubs.”

The downsizing of Princeton’s postal service reflects the situation across the country. Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Donahoe described the state of the service in his annual address to the mailing industry last month. Annual costs have been reduced by more than $12 billion and the workforce by 110,000 career employees over the past four years, he said. “We must reduce our annual costs by $20 billion by 2015 to be profitable, and we do not currently have the flexibility in our business model to achieve those cost reductions.”

As to what type of occupant might take over the post office property, Mr. Newton said he would not be in favor of a restaurant. “But who knows, at the moment? It’s a very pretty building,” he said. “It would obviously be a historic renovation.”

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