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Crumbling history: Post office ceiling is ailing


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A leaky air-conditioner system is to blame for ceiling damage at the Greenfield Post Office. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)
A leaky air-conditioner system is to blame for ceiling damage at the Greenfield Post Office. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)

Visitors to the post office in Greenfield this week passed under a large tarp designed to catch debris flaking off the ceiling. Water from the building's air-conditioning system leaked through the ceiling. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)
Visitors to the post office in Greenfield this week passed under a large tarp designed to catch debris flaking off the ceiling. Water from the building's air-conditioning system leaked through the ceiling. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD – In its Nov. 11, 1931, issue, the Daily Reporter noted that the lobby ceiling of the city’s new post office “will be domed in a very artistic manner.”

Last week, a good chunk of that art wound up on the lobby floor.

Post office employees arrived for work to find that three sections of the ceiling plaster over the counter windows had fallen, leaving exposed lath where the previously cream plaster and blue craft motif trim had been.

Greenfield Post Master Mike Johnson said a leak in the building’s air conditioning system wept into the ceiling material, causing it to loosen and fall.

Though no additional damage was caused by the falling plaster and no one was hurt, the incident did keep doors closed and customers out of the post office.

Currently, a large, blue tarpaulin hangs above the 20-by-35-foot lobby to catch any other debris; however, Johnson said the condition poses no hazard to employees or customers, and it was business as usual the rest of the week.

Given the nature of the work and the historical significance of the building, the postal service has requested proposals from craftsmen and contractors outside its own facilities operation staff.

“Where our people might normally make repairs, in this case, it’s a special job,” said Mary Danville, postal service spokeswoman.

“It’s a historic building, and everything has to be done by contractors who can do that kind of work,” Danville said.

 “We want to explain to our customers that we understand everybody is very fond of the post office. It’s a lovely building, and we will be preserving that,” Danville said.

That will be welcome news to many customers who came in throughout the week expressing concern about the restoration work.

“They’ve made several comments that they hope the ceiling is restored back to the way it was,” said post office employee Debbie Shively, who was working the counter Friday.

Shively said there have been few complaints about the tarpaulin hanging above customers’ heads, but she has gotten a few interesting questions.

“A few people have come in asking when we’re going to set up the campfire,” she said.

Postal service officials are hoping to have bids for the work in hand by next week, Danville said.

According to newspaper accounts of the day, ground was broken on the post office on July 22, 1931. The government appropriated $100,000 in 1929 to construct the building, but Logansport contractor James Barnes brought the building to completion for just over $50,000.

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