The U.S. Post Office located at 380 Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto, California has been located there since 1933 when construction was completed. Designed by local architect, Birge M. Clark in the Spanish Mediterranean Revival style, the building has only served one purpose, that of a U.S. Post Office. However, its future is currently in doubt as it is listed as a property for sale by the USPS as of July 2017. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981.
Plans for a
new post office in Palo Alto began in the early 1930s as the federal government
sought to create jobs in local areas during the Great Depression. To that end, they utilized local residents to
design and build federal structures which is why they requested that San
Francisco born Birge Clark submit drawings for the post office. Clark graduated from Palo Alto High School
and Stanford University and, as a result, was greatly influenced by the
architecture of the area. Thus, his
drawings for the post office reflected the architecture of many of the buildings
at Stanford. Initially, his drawings
were rejected by the USPS as not befitting a federal building. However, Clark argued that the building
should fit in with the architecture of Palo Alto in general and Stanford
specifically. The anecdote also recounts how he then lunched with friends, President Herbert Hoover and his wife. Clark's argument (and lunch connections) won the day
and his plans were approved. Clark went
on to design 137 residences and 30 office buildings in the Palo Alto area.
first sketches were made in 1931, the formal drawings were completed in 1932
and the post office opened the next year.
Its Mediterranean Revival style features a hip roof comprised of red
tiles that vary in color from deep to light.
This roof and its stuccoed walls that mimic adobe enclose a 20,000-square
foot area that sits on .73 of an acre.
The main lobby is 120 feet long and 15 feet wide and features an open
arcade with round arches at both ends.
Its entrances have bronze frames and transoms and originally contained
bronze doors that have since been replaced.
The lobby contains round-headed windows with amber colored glass, a
boxed-beam wooden ceiling, a marble tiled floor of reddish and beige squares,
red marble wainscoting, ornamental lantern fixtures and decorative wrought iron
throughout. Its landscaped grounds
contain various local plants, flowers and trees, to include a dawn redwood
originally added in 1949.
2011, the USPS sought to sell the building in an effort to consolidate
locations and cut costs. The city of
Palo Alto then began to explore the possibilities of purchasing the building
and then renting the faculties to the USPS to keep the post office
operating. However, as of May 2017 the
city has abandoned those plans as the purchase price and renovation costs were
in excess of $30 million. As a result,
the future of the post office and the building itself remain unknown despite
the fact that its historical designation offers some protections. As of this writing, the building is still
being utilized as a U.S. Post Office and is open to the public.