By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times
During the New Deal, 1,100 post offices were built in towns across the country, including the one in Hayward.
They were built quickly and at a reasonable price, but they’re beautiful and built to last. The New Deal wanted a symbol of the federal government in every town, and many post offices, including Hayward, commissioned an artist to paint a mural in the lobby.
But recently, the Bradford Branch Post Office in downtown Hayward, built in 1936, has been going to seed. It’s simply been let go, the paint peeling so badly that the plaster beneath it is starting to rot.
The sad condition of a historic building was brought to the post office’s attention last week, and a post office spokesman said the building will be taken care of right away.
“The job order has been approved today,” said post office spokesman Gus Ruiz on Monday. “We’ll get this post office up to par. It’s just a matter of contracting to do it.”
Ruiz said he wasn’t aware of the condition of the Bradford Branch.
“Unfortunately, they let this one go,” Ruiz said.
It’s important to keep a post office in good condition because its appearance represents the United States Postal Service to the customer, Ruiz said.
Customers at the Bradford Branch Post Office in downtown Hayward have noticed the building in need of some TLC.
“It’s a beautiful building, so I don’t want to see it run down,” said post office patron Patsy Crockett of Castro Valley who works in Hayward.
Crockett said it looked like the unpainted window frames were going to get dry rot.
Like many of the New Deal post offices, the Bradford Branch has a mural. Hayward Rural Landscape by Tom Lewis, a scene of old Hayward when it was farm country, hovers over the lobby.
One goal of the New Deal post offices, built by the Public Works Administration (PWA), was to unite the country. So no matter where you go, from Maine to San Diego, the post office reminds you that you’re in the United States, a symbolic thread that holds the country together.
The post office has been closing its offices across the country and selling the buildings. The United States Postal Service (USPS) is closing 2,000 of its 32,000 post offices, mostly small, little-used offices.
Some of the 1,100 New Deal-era post offices are closing too. In Berkeley, post office patrons have been protesting a plan to sell off the downtown Berkeley post office.
And in Napa, public sentiment and Congressman Mike Thompson got the USPS to cancel plans to demolish the historic Franklin Station Post office in downtown Napa, an art deco classic built in 1933.
In recent years, the post office has lost business to email and other electronic communication.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel ran a cartoon showing a woman with a letter in hand at the front door of a building marked U.S. Post Office. She’s reading a sign taped to the door that reads: “Closed Permanently – questions or complaints? Send an email, text message, tweet or visit our Facebook page.”
CAPTION: The Bradford Branch Post Office in downtown Hayward (above), a New Deal classic built in 1936, is in need of some tender loving care. At right is an example of the peeling paint at the post office.
PHOTOS BY JIM KNOWLES