News editor rides subway back to his old neighborhood to inspect the Bronx General Post Office where his father once worked nights, loading mail onto delivery trucks. The US Postal Service recently announced the stately building on the Grand Concourse has been sold.
I grew up in the Bronx, the son of a career postal worker, so any news about the United States Postal Service tended to be big news in our household.
The news that broke two weeks ago — that the stately gray brick-and-marble Bronx General Post Office on the Grand Concourse at 149th St. had been sold — was no different.
After all, my father had spent many years working nights at that very building, lifting heavy canvas sacks of mail into the backs of trucks waiting to drive them away to be delivered.
On occasion, I would stop into the lobby of the “GPO,” as we called it, to buy a book of stamps or mail a letter. But as I recall, I never really spent too much time there, and never really paid much attention to its decor.
So it came as something of a surprise to me when I read the story of the sale, which noted that the lobby contained “13 iconic Depression-era murals . . . which received protective landmark status just last year.”
That story noted that the GPO was built in 1935, was designated a city landmark in 1976 and, later, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Intrigued, I took a subway ride back to the Bronx earlier this week, on a mission to — this time — pay attention to what was in there.
What I saw, behind the landmarked walls and soaring 20-foot ceilings, was, in words written by a former colleague, Tanyanika Samuels, “America at Work,” murals painted in 1937 by artist Ben Shahn and his wife, Bernarda Bryson, that depicted “factory workers toiling away, farmers picking cotton and construction workers.”