Original drawing for Portland, Or. Pioneer Custom House, Post Office and Courthouse Portland Pioneer Post Office

The Pioneer Post Office was designed by A. B. Mullett.

For years now GSA has been trying to close this building to public use, close the Post Office, and test the new seismic upgrade system that architectural historians are often warry of. The public indicated a strong interest in budget cutting and reducing the deficit, so GSA delayed the process to fund their planned seismic and parking lot access renovations to Pioneer Post Office. We support the general concept of making sure the building is accessible to all, we do not agree with all of GSA's intentions for seismic upgrades to a building that clearly does not need it and we also are not in favor of closing the post office in favor of making the building only a Court House. Especially of concern is the base isolation plans and how the architects and engineers planned to support the arched ceilings formerly supported by the earth surrounding the foundation. Thanks to budget cuts the seismic work and closing the post office to the public was delayed. A Senator from Oregon was lobbied by construction firms wanting to have the contract for seismic upgrade. Funds were appropriated. The local residents oppose GSA's plans. Especially the removal of the Post Office. Now both US Senators from Oregon have changed their positions in favor of the local citizens. Thanks to Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden the close date was extended. The US Third District Representative, Earl Blumenauer is also opposed to the Post office eviction and the installation of a parking lot beneath the court house. The Fist District US Representative, David Wu, who supported the GSA and the judges has shifted his position to a "no position status.". The building is in his district. He is not listening to the majority of citizens in that part of the city in his district.

Unless the architects and engineers examined the original plans for the building and read the correspondences to discover what is inside the walls, or unless they have already been given permission to dig a hole into the wall to find its construction pattern, it is unlikely they could make a clear determination as to the soundness of the original structure. They would also need to know the soundness of the old construction system versus the 20th Century systems. But then digging into the walls would damage the structure anyway.

The historian, John Ferrell, wrote to me some years ago, that the city of Portland is well known for its public transportation. In fact, he says the Mayor uses public transportation. The public transportation in Portland is the best we have ever seen in a city that we have visited. All parts of the city are easily reached with very little required walking between stops for every location we visited. The GSA plan for a parking garage under the Portland building is therefore not necessary even for security for the judges. There are many unused offices in this building since the local Senator moved out and others moved out. This space could be converted into a local postal museum with possibly history of the mint and assay office proposals the government had for the 19th Century. They could sell postal and historic items and coins minted by the government so that the building would not be so empty. Sam Oakland would like to see a Postal Museum that would sell historic postal materials world-wide. There is precedence for this. Washington, DC put a Postal Historical Museum in the Old Post Office next to Union Station. Unfortunately, that one is not very inviting. An elderly friend of mine visited it one day, had trouble finding the museum in the vast building and when she did find it she said the access to it was through a dark hall. However she did visit and did enjoy what she saw. There was little to buy at that time. Portland could do better with theirs when/if they get one. Citizens in Portland are willing to operate it.

There are other Mullett Historic buildings around the country that have converted the basement areas into a variety of fine uses. Some have put in cafeterias for the public and some have put in mini museums showing the historical evolution of a region.
One of the Portland Judges in 1988 at his historic desk Judges in Pioneer Courthouse care about history... This judge advertised to locate the historic desk and chair used in this 1988 photo. The desk and chair were found several States away. He obtained them and complained that some who had space in the building did not appreciate its historic heritage. He was proud to be able to use the historically furnished courtroom.

Courtroom, Portland, Oregon Pioneer Courthouse has a cupola with a beautiful view of the city and some photos next to each window showing the original views from the time of construction or within 20 or 30 years thereafter. 

The public uses the Post Office quite frequently and there has been a bulletin board and a display of historic photos of the building in that area. The public should be allowed to keep their post office in its present location since it is the oldest post office in continuous use in the Northwestern United States, or it should become a Post Office Museum that still shows the original formation and use. 

Anyone wishing to comment to officials about any of these issues of GSA's plans may call Assistant Commissioner for Portfolio Management at 202-501-0638 in Washington, DC. You may also contact Congressional Representative David Wu or Committee on Public Works and Transportation of the U.S. House of Representatives about the use of the Pioneer Post Office and to request the seismic plans be scrapped permenantly. We have stopped GSA in the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 fiscal years as there were insufficient funds available for starting new projects on Public Buildings. We can thank the Public's determination to cut the overall budget and deficit for this grace period on potential changes in the Pioneer Courthouse. We need to free up the millions of dollars GSA plans to spend on this project by telling officials we do not want them to spend this money for a project that is so unnecessary and is against the public interests.

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Copyright Mullett-Smith Press, updated February 2003