The Trust’s first project was the renovation of the Post Office located at 16 South Street at the easterly end of the commercial block in the Borough of Litchfield. In 1980, a group of local citizens had acquired the Beckwith block building, which had housed the Post Office for years. They had commissioned an architect, Jarrod Edwards of Hartford, to work with the Post Office to come up with a set of plans to accommodate the Post Office’s needs on the Beckwith property on South Street. The ownership group was unable to agree amongst themselves as to the manner of proceeding with the renovations to accommodate the Post Office. In late 1980, Mrs. Seherr-Thoss made a then anonymous commitment to a local counsel to provide low-interest financing so that the project on South Street could proceed. Counsel brought that commitment to the Trust, which embarked upon a plan to raise additional equity funds to complete the project.
The Trust engaged a New Haven law firm to prepare a private offering memorandum for up to 35 individual investors. The memorandum proposed a limited partnership structure wherein the Trust would be the general partner of the Litchfield Preservation Limited Partnership. 19 individuals subscribed to the offering and became limited partners, thereby providing the equity capital. The equity, together with the loan commitment from Mrs. Seherr-Thoss, made the renovation of the Post Office at the Beckwith site possible. The Trust then entered into a contract to purchase the property from the then owners, conditioned upon approval of the Post Office and local land use agencies.
Prior to the Trust’s involvement, the U.S. Postal Service had expressed its intention to acquire property on Route 202 to create a brand-new Post Office next to the then Litchfield Savings Bank where the CVS pharmacy is currently located. The Postal Service was not satisfied with the renovation plans provided by the Trust. At that time, local resident S. Dillon Ripley, then head of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, intervened on behalf of the Trust by contacting then US Postmaster Gen. William Bolger and convincing him to reverse local Postal Service’s decision to move the Post Office out of the commercial block. Once Mr. Bolger agreed, then the final details of the architectural drawings were completed, the last being that the flooring in the lobby itself had to be quarry tile. A long-term lease was then negotiated with the Postal Service contingent upon it completing renovations in accordance with the Edwards architectural firm plans.
The Trust then proceeded to obtain local Historic District Commission approval of the plans and approval by the Litchfield Planning and Zoning Commission of the expanded Post Office on South Street. Mail truck deliveries to the Post Office were planned to be made via a passway from West Street over a portion of the town-owned municipal parking lot to the rear of the West Street commercial block. The Town required the Trust to request a formal easement for the mail truck’s and that easement, being an interest in land granted by the Town, had to be approved by a Town Meeting of Litchfield voters. The meeting was held and the Town overwhelmingly approved the easement, which was the final condition before the project could move forward.
TheTrust put the plans out to bid and fortunately was able to secure the services of local builders Arthur D. Deacon and Sons Inc. to do the project within the Trust’s budget. The Post Office temporarily moved out of the Beckwith building to a location on Torrington Road easterly of the Bantam River. The renovation work was completed on schedule and in early 1982 the Postal Service returned to the Beckwith block. Recently, the Postal Service has signed a new lease for an additional 5 years commencing an act over a 2012.