Getting the band back together might not be all that easy, Jake: The Joliet Post Office Blues


The post office in downtown Joliet, Illinois, at the corner of Scott and Clinton Streets, was built in 1903.  It was the city’s main post office until 1981, when a new post office opened on the west side.  The building was designed by the federal government’s supervising architect, Taylor James Knox, in the Renaissance Revival Style. It also has an extension built in 1931-32.

The people of Joliet learned this week that the Postal Service is planning to close their post office.  As required by law, the USPS held a meeting to hear comments from the public, but apparently the Postal Service didn’t do a great job notifying local residents about it.  As the Herald-News reports, Mayor Thomas Giarrante learned of the meeting a few hours before it took place. “They didn’t notify anybody,” he said. 

Plus, the meeting was held across town at the West Side post office on McDonough Street.  “We need to at least have a meeting on the East Side with the people who use it,” Giarrante said, adding that one of the problems with closing the facility is that some users don’t drive. “Some of the people (who use the downtown facility) walk to that post office. I don’t know how they expect those people to get to McDonough Street.”

Thomas Mahalik, vice president of marketing for the City Center Partnership that promotes business development downtown, said he learned of the meeting just the day before.   “The thing that got some people upset is the way they disseminated the information,” he said. Besides the surveys put in the postal boxes, others were available “behind the counter,” Mahalik said. “You almost had to ask for them in order to do the survey.”

The Scott street post office is on the National Register of Historic Places.  As the application for historic designation states, “Throughout the years, this building has funtioned as a provider of a necessary public service, a symbol of growth, a source of community pride and a distinctive architectural creation which has survived the passage of time and retained its basic architectural integrity.  The Joliet Post Office is a physical link that connects present-day Joliet to the past history and development of this community.  As such, this building is an important landmark and a valuable resource to the people of Joliet.”  (More on the history of the building, here and here.)

The Veterans Memorial in Joliet's Bicentennial Park contains a large mosaic (1992) depicting many of the city's landmarks, including the post office.

Joliet, Wikipedia informs us, was the home of a prison from 1858 to 2002, featured in songs by Memphis Minnie and Bob Dylan.  The 1980 film
"The Blues Brothers" has scenes shot in Joliet, and John Belushi's character has just been released from the prison, hence his nickname, Joliet Jake Blues.  

Given the problems of notification with the public meeting, civic leaders are trying to persuade the Postal Service to hold another meeting.  But the Postal Service has not agreed to it, and instead extended the comment period a couple of weeks.

(Photo credits: Post office exterior; postcard; mosaic)

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