National Trust for Historic Preservation Award (Post Office)
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has given the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust Inc. one of its 18 annual awards for the local trust’s work to preserve the post office in the center of town. The Preservation Honor Awards, sponsored by the Rust-Oleum Co. and granted by the National Trust, carry a certificate of commendation and a $500 cash award.
The Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust was given the award, under the category of “Preserving Our Town,” for its work in helping renovate the Beckwith Building on South Street. The award plaque (see below) hangs in the lobby of the Post Office.
The building had been the home for the post office since the turn of the century. However, in 1974, the U. S. Postal Service announced that it planned to build a larger office on West Street, near the town firehouse.
The move was opposed by many residents, who preferred to keep the post office in the town center.
The Postal Service moved to temporary quarters on Route 202 in 1981, saying that it would return to the Beckwith Building when and if it was renovated.
Later that year, the trust and a group of private citizens bought the building for $175,000. Their renovation plans were recognized then by the National Parks Administration as a historic rehabilitation project, giving the new owners enough tax benefits to afford the $350,000 cost of renovating the building.
In November 1982, the post office was reopened in the enlarged and completely renovated Beckwith Building.
Litchfield Saves its Old Post Office
Article from The New York Times, November 21, 1982
A roar of protest went up in Litchfield, Conn., eight years ago when word came from Washington that the United States Postal Service planned to vacate the century-old, ramshackle frame building where it rented space and move to more contemporary and serviceable quarters. That the new post office was to be on the outskirts of town added insult to injury for residents, who saw the move as an erosion of Litchfield’s “village green” atmosphere.
Town residents decided to fight the move. With a partnership led by the Litchfield preservation Trust, they raised the $175,000 needed to buy the building, which was an anchor in the town’s National Historic District, from its private owners. The next step, convincing the postal Service that it should stay in the Colonial Revival structure, was no small chore either.
“They were adamant about needing more modern facilities,” said Victoria Sansing, president of the Preservation Trust. “But we felt all along that to just save the building and then to see the post office move two miles from the town would have defeated the primary purpose of saving the building.”
Among the requirements that the Postal Service made were that the mailroom working area be doubled and a modern loading dock be installed and that the battered wooden floor be replaced with ceramic tile. An additional (sic) $165,000 was borrowed for remodeling to comply with the Government’s mandates as well as for architectural and legal fees. The result: Litchfield was able to rededicate its “new” old post office this month.
“Certainly Historic Litchfield would have survived, “Said Mrs. Sansing. “But we’ve succeeded in keeping our downtown a ‘living’ place where residents do business, shop, and communicate.”