To name, or not to name. That is the question. Or is it? Maybe the better vision for Owego’s U.S. Post Office is to prioritize restoring it so that it lasts another hundred years. That’s right.
The U.S. Post Office in Owego will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary. Famous building architect, James A. Wetmore, who was born and raised in Bath, N.Y, designed it in 1917.
During his U.S. Department of Treasury tenure, Wetmore designed 2,000 Federal buildings including post office buildings in Baltimore, Albuquerque and Las Vegas, and Alaska’s Juneau State Capitol Building. Wetmore’s name sits proudly on the cornerstone of Owego’s Post Office.
This remarkable building was constructed in 1919 and 1920, opening with Michael J. Murray as Postmaster. While naming Owego’s Post Office may be an opportunity of convenience, the better vision is to celebrate this building’s 100 years of postal service and all Owego Postal Service public servants since 1800, and prioritize fixing the front steps, replacing the handrails, redoing the interior, replacing the windows to be energy efficient, and investing in the beautiful brick and stone building so it can stand proudly for the next century as an Owego building on the National Historic Site Registry.
Maybe Belva Lockwood is a name to consider for naming the Owego Post Office. But then again, she was there for only three years as a headmistress, leaving at the end of the Civil War with the school closing.
Why not other distinguished homegrown Owego women like Helen Dean LaMonte, a graduate of Owego Free Academy and Smith College in 1895 with a 60 year education career, and who passed in her hometown Owego at age 109; and Rowena Beck, a 1910 Owego Free Academy graduate who was a self-taught attorney, president of the Tioga County Bar Association, first female Family Court Judge, and practiced law retiring at age 95?
These ladies represent the real authentic brand of Owego, which is a small town with a huge history. Owego’s brand is the historical significance of its beautiful setting, Native American roots, early settlement, pioneer families, extraordinary brick buildings, architecture of grand houses and most importantly, the notable men and women who made their marks in history, locally, nationally and internationally.
In a recent straw poll taken in front of the Owego Post Office, 34 local citizens indicated opinions on whether to name the Post Office after Belva Lockwood; four said no, five said yes, ten said keep it the same, two didn’t care, and 13 wanted others recognized including Martin Luther King Jr. and a former Owego Postmaster, and 11 wanted other Owego women with lengthy ties and contributions to the community to be considered for this honor.
It seems that the majority of Owegoans have other visions for the Post Office, and just maybe we, and Senator Schumer, should listen to them and celebrate and preserve the U.S. Post Office Building as the national treasure it already is.
Robert Clarke Bassett