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Historic San Simeon post office closes amid structural concerns

Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 00:05:33-04

San Simeon residents no longer have a local place to take their mail after a structural review of the historic post office forced it to close for renovations.

The Hearst Corporation commissioned the review last year as part of its plans to renovate the historic structure in January 2020.

The U.S. Postal Service of San Simeon is located in the Sebastian Store but its lease was set to expire in January and would be not be renewed as renovations got underway.

But after the review found structural deficiencies in the more than 150-year-old building, the Hearst Corp. and USPS decided to close the building early.

"The building is not safe for habitation," USPS Real Estate Specialist Dean Cameron said Wednesday in a phone interview.

As a result, the 91 people who have an active mailbox at the post office in San Simeon must now drive about 9 miles to Cambria for mail service.

An elderly San Simeon woman said she had been a longtime customer of the San Simeon post office and would likely resort to cards with cash this Christmas instead of driving into Cambria to mail out packages.

"There's a long history of San Simeon residents receiving their mail right here in this location," said Hearst Castle Ag Operations Director Ben Higgins. "Some kind of impending disaster wasn't necessarily a reason we closed it but we knew something like that could compromise the integrity of the building further."

Higgins said the Sebastian Store, which also features a wine tasting and dining space, was built on piers with no foundation. Over the years, the floors have sloped and the utilities need modernizing.

The wine bar and food relocated to a warehouse across the street but the post office currently has no space to move into while about two years of renovations are performed on the Sebastian Store.

"Our preference would be to not stand still for that length of time," Cameron said.

Cameron said USPS is considering the commercial space near the San Simeon hotels as a potential area for relocation. In the meantime, USPS is working with Hearst on possibly installing a temporary bank of mailboxes in the historic area near the Sebastian Store.

"It's a historic building, a well-known building, an often-photographed building," Higgins said. "We want to rebuild Sebastians essentially as it is today but completely modernize the utilities, update the interior of the building to make sure the people who visit here, that they have an even better experience than they did in the past."

The one full-time employee at the San Simeon post office has been temporarily moved to the Cambria office, Higgins said.