Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

Punxsutawney Post Office

Although Punxsutawney, Jefferson County, is best known as the home of a renowned weather-forecasting groundhog, it is also a community of notable historic buildings, including the grand Classical Revival U.S. post office shown in this circa 1916 postcard.

The Punxsutawney Post Office, with its imposing Ionic limestone columns, was the hub of the community’s mail services from its completion in 1914 until 1998, when a new facility was constructed. Prior to the opening of this handsome red-brick building, the duties of the post office in Punxsutawney were carried out in a variety of buildings from general stores to the elegant Pantall Hotel. As the bituminous coal industry flourished in this region at the turn of the 20th century, Punxsutawney grew as well, warranting the construction of a new post office to reflect its growing importance. Designed by James Knox Taylor (1857–1929), Supervising Architect of the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 1897 to 1912, the Punxsutawney Post Office was one of his last commissions. Taylor promoted the concept that government buildings should be both monumental and beautiful to represent the ideals of democracy. He designed numerous post offices throughout the country, often in the Classical Revival or Colonial Revival styles, creating a unique design for each location.

As it sat vacant awaiting reuse, the Punxsutawney Post Office was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 as part of an effort to encourage redevelopment of this landmark building. Inclusion in the National Register makes a property eligible for possible grant funds and use of federal and state tax credits for rehabilitation. In 2001 plans were announced to convert the former post office to the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. That same year the building was approved for a PHMC Keystone Preservation Grant to assist in the restoration of the exterior and improve accessibility for the disabled. The Keystone Preservation Grant Program offers grants to nonprofit organizations and local governments for preservation planning or construction projects benefiting National Register eligible or listed properties in Pennsylvania.

The preservation and reuse of the Punxsutawney Post Office highlights a positive outcome for a growing national problem, the closure of historic post offices throughout the country. The U.S. Postal Service has announced plans to close many post offices to address its growing deficit, caused in part by major changes in the way Americans communicate. A comprehensive strategy to protect and repurpose post office buildings has yet to be developed and they remain at risk. In many smaller communities, the post office may be one of the most iconic buildings in town, essential to convey local identity and a sense of place. Some of these post offices still have distinctive interior murals created by Works Progress Administration artists of the New Deal era.

Communities can follow Punxsutawney’s lead in finding a successful adaptive reuse to keep historic post office buildings as functional local landmarks.


Pamela W. Reilly is a historic preservation specialist in PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation.