Before he became FDR’s fiercest defender of the New Deal, Attorney General Homer Cummings was best known as the Mayor of Stamford responsible for acquiring the land to be called Halloween Park and as a Fairfield County Prosecutor with a strong sense of justice. His most famous case found a vagrant former soldier innocent of the murder of a popular Bridgeport parish priest despite compelling evidence including a confession and a .32 revolver with a fired cartridge in the suspect’s possession. Cummings’ meticulous investigation earned him kudos within the legal profession and became the inspiration of Elia Kazan’s 1947 film Boomerang filmed in Stamford’s gritty South End standing in for Bridgeport.
HNPP has long made the case that the Post Office’s 1939 addition, which opened during Cummings’ last year as Attorney General, is unusually architecturally distinguished for a mail-sorting facility. It is not beyond reason to imagine this detail-oriented lawyer having a hand in the quality of Stamford’s design much in the same way that FDR’s fingerprints are found in numerous WPA-era post offices throughout the Hudson Valley. We remember him in the subsequently re-named parkland he acquired as mayor although he’d be hard-pressed to recognize Cummings’ Park today. But the Post Office addition is another story, for it survives exactly the way it looked in 1939. Within its first decade the mail sorting room was put to hard use in the sorting of all packages and letters sent to and from Stamford’s native sons (and some daughters too) fighting overseas. Doesn’t this addition do exactly what the best historic buildings are supposed to do by reminding us of legacies left behind while delighting the eye? Shouldn’t we treasure it instead of considering it an obstruction to parking in a new development?
The opening made by the injunction requires the USPS to follow federal law and its own disposition procedures by submitting an Environmental Assessment (EA) on the proposed sale’s adverse impacts–namely the lack of protection for the 1939 addition and 1916 interior. The National Trust for Historic Preservation sees the Stamford case as a welcome game changer for the sale of historic post offices elsewhere. For more on how we reached this point see http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org/2013/11/15/stamford-post-office-nepa/#.Utbrydco61t
HNPP has applied to USPS to become a consulting party in reviewing the EA along with the Collaborative and Trust. We’ll keep you posted when we see it in February.