Franklin Postal Station

Post Office

The Franklin Postal Station on the corner of Second and Randolph St. was built in an Art Deco style known as WPA Moderne. The architectural style was named for the Works Progress Administration, the agency created by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression to supply jobs for out of work laborers.

Post offices of a similar style can be found throughout the United States, but Napa’s 1933 post office is notable for its exterior friezes of shields and eagles and its ornate lobby complete with impressive woodwork and marble wainscoting. The building’s cornerstone was laid May 7, 1933 to great fanfare. Napa’s Masons paraded in front of the building and a time capsule was placed containing a city directory and a number of period newspapers.

During World War II the Franklin Postal Station played a role in an unfortunate part of local and national history. 165 men and women termed “enemy aliens,” mostly Japanese, German and Italian nationals, were forced to register here. Other residents, regardless of their citizenship status, were banned from living in the neighborhoods west of Jefferson St. and south of Third St. due to their country of origin. The culmination of this discrimination against residents with family origins among the Axis Powers of World War II was the removal of 42 Japanese residents to internment camps.

Designed by William H. Corlett, the local architect responsible for the Plaza Hotel and the old St. Helena Public Library Building, it was one of Corlett’s last works. The building underwent a remodel in 1965, adding offices to the basement and a ramp to the exterior. Even after the remodel, the postal station still retains most of Corlett’s architectural flourishes, most visible on the building’s exterior and in the ornate lobby area.

August 2014's South Napa Quake was particularly trying for postal customers. Both the historical downtown post office and the newer main office on Trancas St. suffered damage, leading to months of closures. Downtown's Franklin Postal Station was particularly hard hit with large cracks visible in the building's exterior. The damage also trapped mail in the 1933 for months due to fears that asbestos may have contaminated the facility. While the city's main post office was able to reopen, the Franklin Station will likely require years in order to repair damages,

After months of silence from the postal service on the building's fate, in June 2015 the Post Office received the unfortunate distinction of topping Napa County Landmarks' annual Ten Threatened Treasures list. Days later the postal service announced a proposal to demolish the historic building. Despite the news Napa's community development directory Steve Tooker struck a cautiously optimistic tone stating, "We are hopeful that the Post Office does not turn is back on the history of this wonderful building and use and its importance to Napa's downtown and community as a whole.”

Images

Franklin Postal Station

Franklin Postal Station

Napa's grand Franklin Postal Station was constructed as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progess Administration in 1933. Image courtesy of Cinthia Garcia-Chavez. View File Details Page

Previous Post Office

Previous Post Office

This downtown post office from the period before the construction of the Franklin Postal Station is indicative of the false front style that dominated Napa's central business district during Napa's early development. These once common false front structures were often destroyed by fire. One of the few remaining examples is the sandstone constructed Sam Kee Laundry located at 1245 Main St. Image: Public Domain View File Details Page

WPA Promotional Poster

WPA Promotional Poster

The Franklin Postal Station was constructed in a style known as WPA Moderne. Many Post Offices throughout the United States and especially in California were constructed in this fashion as part of the Works Progress Administration with the goal of putting Americans back to work during the Great Depression. On January 11, 1985, it and several other WPA post offices in California were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Image: Public Domain | Source: Library of Congress, WPA Federal Art Project. View File Details Page

William H. Corlett

William H. Corlett

The 1933 Franklin Postal Station is one of the last and finest of William H. Corlett's works, which included the Plaza Hotel in Napa and the original public library building in St. Helena. Image: Public Domain View File Details Page

Detail

Detail

William Corlett's constuction is notable for its details including this eagle frieze. Image courtesy of Cinthia Garcia-Chavez. View File Details Page

Post Office Interior

Post Office Interior

The Franklin Postal Station is especially notable for its interiors. Features include marble wainscoting, ornately carved cornices and impressive ceiling designs. Image courtesy of American Aguilar. View File Details Page

Exterior Cracks from the South Napa Quake

Exterior Cracks from the South Napa Quake

Source: Wikimedia Commons View File Details Page

Audio

Rebecca Yerger on the Franklin Postal Station

Local historian Rebecca Yerger speaks about the the architectural details of the Franklin Postal Station. Audio courtesy of Rebecca Yerger. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

John Thill, “Franklin Postal Station,” Explore Napa, accessed June 28, 2017, http://explorenapa.org/items/show/15.

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