Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 4, 2015 2:05 p.m.
London Bridge is not the only structure falling down. A quick look at the old Post Office building downtown Fernandina Beach shows a once-grand structure, laid low by the ravages of weather, time and neglect. Just when many folks had given up hope that any help would be forthcoming from the United States Postal Service (USPS) to restore Fernandina’s historic Post Office building, the city received the following letter from USPS Federal Preservation Officer Daniel Delahaye:
As of this writing, Fernandina Beach Community Development Director Adrienne Burke has been unable to contact Delahaye by phone, but not for lack of trying. Her immediate email response to Delahaye, who had tried to call her before sending the letter:
“… [A]fter initial review of the letter, my first reaction is complete joy! It will be so exciting and significant for this community to see this building brought back to life with an exterior rehabilitation.
“We do have a Historic District Council review process that I can explain when we connect. I believe most of the proposed work can be done at a staff-approval level; the only item which potentially would require Board approval is if windows have to be replaced. We can discuss. I’m also curious as to the timeline for the proposed renovations.
“This is honestly some of the best news I have received in a long time! The City will probably want to have a celebration party at the end (seriously!).”
Adam Kaufman, President of the Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation, Inc., emailed Burke: “This is great, if surprising news. The HDC (Historic District Council) with Jose [Miranda] as Chair given his participation in the 2011 architectural study is the perfect place for any needed review and citizen participation. If there is anything that you believe that could be helpful with the Foundation’s imprimatur attached to it do not hesitate to ask for our assistance. …”
The Restoration Foundation has long played a role in trying to save the historic Post Office Building from years of neglect and lack of funding for maintenance. Despite two independent studies citing preservation needs, paint has continued to peel off the building exterior, and at one time even upper story windows were losing glass panes. Other than the first floor, occupied by the USPS, the remainder of the building remains vacant.
The intervention of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) appears to have placed increased pressure on the USPS to stabilize and restore the building. California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have also pressured the USPS to restore historic post office buildings in their state.
As more facts become known, the Fernandina Observer will pass them along. But for now, the future of the historic Post Office Building looks much brighter than it did last week.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.