Kathie immediately veered toward a wooden drop leaf table at one end of the room and peered at it closely “I think it’s really 19th century,” she said. Since we’d last met, Kathie had traded her meticulously restored 18th century farmhouse for a easy-to-maintain condo, but her museum-quality antiques were all still with her.
“Really?” I asked, looking at the old table piled with envelopes, labels, and other postal paraphernalia.
“Really,” she said.
We were in the post office in the center of Deerfield, Massachusett’s restored historic district. I have friends who work for the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, who have — with some effort — gotten me to appreciate postal history, architecture and art. So when I saw a post office sign on one of the cutest buildings ever, I made a beeline right for it.
The post office building is a circa 1950s reproduction of the third meeting house that stood in Deerfield, 1696 to 1729. In colonial America, a meeting house was a house of worship cum general town gathering place. A history of the current building, written by Helen and Henry Flynt (the people primarily responsible for the restoration of Historic Deerfield), says that they just happened to find a picture of the third meeting house on a page of an 1838 edition of a newspaper that lined an antique hat box they had bought. Other than the fact that the original meeting house had two stories (the post office has one), the exterior of the building is true to that picture. The interior has colonial style wrought iron chandeliers and other revival fixtures.
My favorite part was the weather-vane, which I’m guessing may be a pony express rider.
From the Flynts’ account: “…[A] plan was developed whereby it has become possible for us to provide a building where for another period of time, Deerfield people may gather at their accustomed place, exchange news, greetings and receive their daily mail. In other words, this enlarged and revised building for the Post Office will continue to be a ‘Meeting House’ for Deerfield people.”