WEST CHESTER—Long-awaited work is underway at the historic 1907 stone United States Post Office at 101 E. Gay St.
Earlier this week, workers were busy removing badly damaged and weathered window frames. Since the windows and frames will be transported offsite and repaired, no intervention by the Borough’s Historic Architecture Review Board will be required.
The work is being done by MG Architects of Wyomissing and Giant Design of Ashland, Ohio. It can take two or three months to complete the repairs.
“Wow! That takes work,” Borough Council President Michael Stefano said during this week’s Borough Council meeting.
“It had to be done,” said Kevin Gore, director of building and housing, of the renovations.
Former Business Improvement District Manager and Community Engagement Officer at the Chester County Cultural Alliance, Malcolm Johnstone, pushed for the post office to be repaired 25 years ago.
“A classic building like the post office deserves to have the best restoration practices,” Johnstone said. “Looks like they are doing a great job restoring anything that needs restoring on the outside.
“It is an elegant building and one of the main historic structures in the borough.”
U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th of Easttown, hosted a site visit, with community representatives to tour the post office after several complaints were logged at the congresswoman’s office.
Houlahan released the following statement earlier this week: “You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know how bad it is or what’s causing it, plain and simple. After hearing from many members of the community concerned about the disrepair and dysfunction of the historic post office in Gay Street – West Chester, I organized a tour a few weeks ago to pull back the curtain and better understand what was causing the delays in services and barriers to accessing the facility.
“Although I was unable to attend at the last minute, I am grateful to the many community leaders and postal representatives who joined us for a candid and productive conversation about staffing shortages and building renovations in delay. Today, I am delighted to see that the renovation works have already started thanks to our efforts. Pennsylvanians and small businesses rely on the USPS to deliver items such as prescriptions, inventory, and tax refunds, and I will continue to work collaboratively with all levels of our government to help our dedicated postal workers better serve our community.
The statement also reads: “Earlier this year, Rep. Houlahan voted for the bipartisan Postal Reform Act of 2021 that reforms the USPS financial system to save $50 billion over 10 years, among other things. changes. The legislation passed with broad support, as well as from the USPS and various postal unions, and it was signed into law on April 6, 2022.”
The two-story building is approximately 20,000 square feet, with only about 3,000 square feet currently in use. Unused offices occupy the first floor. Postal trucks formerly left for their daily West Chester postal routes from the town center car park.
Three clerks and a janitor work outside the borough. Most local mail jobs now take place at the 1050 Airport Rd. location.
The West Chester Post Office is leased and controlled not by the Postal Service but by the Home Office and a private company.
The post office was built when James Knox Taylor was the architect of the Treasury, according to Johnstone. Taylor constructed monumental and magnificent buildings in classical styles, with high quality materials.
The post office was built in two sections, thirty years apart. It is included in the National Register and is an example of the Classical Revival style, which was popular for Federal architecture in the early 20th century.
The Cockeysville marble stone for the structure was quarried at Baker’s Station near Avondale, about 18 miles away. It is a white stone with crystalline qualities that shimmer in the sun.
The first 152 feet of the Washington Monument are faced with the same stone.
Some stones near the top of the post office show a bluish tint. This stone is called Brandywine Blue and was probably included just to add interest.