The times they are a changin: New Deal P.O. in Fairfield, for sale, maybe


July 11, 2011

Settled in 1639, Fairfield, Connecticut is one of the oldest towns in the country, and the people of Fairfield were among the earliest followers of the cause for independence in the Revolutionary War.  In 1779 the British burned the town to the ground in retaliation.  At Fairfield’s center is the Historic District, which contains 75 buildings in a variety of architectural styles, some going back to the Revolutionary War era.

On the edge of the historic district, at 1262 Post Road, is the Fairfield post office, built by the New Deal in 1936.  According to the Fairfield Citizen, the Postal Service is considering selling the post office. "We hope to be able to sell our current location, which we have occupied since 1936,” said USPS spokeswoman Maureen P. Marion, “and make a seamless transition to an alternate site in the same general area that comes in a better size for us.” The post office is almost 16,000 square feet, and they’re looking to downsize to about 2,000.

That announcement came back in December, and there’s been no news since. The post office is not listed for sale on the usual websites like Loopnet.  But with the recent sale of the nearby post offices in Westport and Greenwich, as well as the closing of the Norwich p.o., rumors of an impending sale are spreading.  It seems only a matter of time before a “for sale” sign appears in front of the Fairfield post office.

The  suburbs of Fairfield County, the "Gold Coast of Connecticut,"  provide the setting for several literary and cinema classics that define the “suburbs” in the American imagination. Eric Hodgin's Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse (1946) is about a couple who move from NYC to a rundown farmhouse in Connecticut, and the 1948 movie with Cary Grant and Mryna Loy is always worth watching.  Sloan Wilson’s 1955 novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, made into a movie starring Gregory Peck as the commuting businessman who learns he needs to spend more time at home, was set in nearby Southport.  John Cheever’s 1964 short story “The Swimmer” takes place in an affluent Connecticut suburb like Fairfield, and the 1966 movie with Burt Lancaster was shot in nearby Westport. Both the 1975 and 2004 versions of The Stepford Wives were filmed in various towns in Connecticut, and the 1975 version had locations in the Greenfield Hill section of Fairfield.  And the best of them all,  Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, was set in a fictionalized version of “Fairfield County,” and scenes for the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were shot in the real Fairfield.

Like many New Deal post offices, the Fairfield p.o. contains an historic mural.  (There may have been another one on the opposite wall, but according to the staff, it was wallpapered over years ago.)  The extant mural was painted in 1938 by New York artist Alice Flint, who also did murals in Georgia and Louisiana.  It depicts a couple on horseback in a procession symbolizing the passage of time.  It’s entitled "Tempora Mutantur et Nos Mutamur in Illis," a Latin motto which means “Times change, and we change with them.” 

(Photo credit: Fairfield p.o. exterior; Fairfield postcard; Revolutionary Road; mural, jimmywayne on flickr, Image used with permission of the USPS)

(By the way, note the FedEx box in front of the post office.)

UPDATE: July 15, 2011: The Fairfield post office was included for example purposes in a OIG study about the fair market value of postal properties.  Apparently the Fairfield post office was purchased for about $1 million (or perhaps that's how much it cose to build?), and it’s worth $3.5 million today.)

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