At the Post Office: A portrait of East Rochester’s history

Anita Mance

In the early days of East Rochester, the Post Office was located in several different places as the population of our community grew and more space was needed. In 1937, the Post Office opened in its present location on the corner of Commercial and Garfield streets. It was constructed as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program (Works Progress Administration) and was built in just 270 days. 

The mural-size painting hanging on the east wall was painted by Bernard Gussow, a Russian immigrant. While Gussow was a well-known artist throughout the world, the painting in East Rochester was the only one he created for a Post Office. Commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, the oil on canvas work was installed in 1938. The painting was taken down in the early 1960s when the lobby was repainted and stored in the basement. There, it was found rolled up, and was refurbished and rehung in 2003. 

“Recreation Hours” by Bernard Gussow.

Gussow titled the work “Recreation Hours.” It depicts actual sites in our community of the time. In the foreground children are playing, a woman is writing a letter, parents are playing with their children, two boys are reading a book, a couple is returning from playing tennis and two men are talking in the park. In the background, several actual landmarks are shown: the water tower, Eyer Block, Municipal Building, the Post Office, St. Jerome’s Catholic Church, Parkside United Methodist Church, the Carshops office, the Despatch Hotel and the Piano Works. 

The Post Office is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. In 2016, it was renamed the Officer Daryl R. Pierson Post Office Building in honor of Daryl, an East Rochester resident and member of the Rochester Police Department who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2014. 

Anita Mance serves as historian for the town/village of East Rochester.