The United States Postal Service -- a financially strapped operation struggling to survive in a world of scanners, email and FedEx -- has penned a contract to sell off its historic Georgetown branch, worth more than $4.5 million.

When EastBanc, a D.C. real estate developer, officially purchases the property, a post office will continue to operate on the premises, according to Anthony Lanier, the firm's president.

A spokeswoman for the Postal Service confirmed that it had formed a contract with a buyer and that a retail post office would remain on the premises after the sale.

The building has housed a post office since the James Buchanan administration. When it opened in 1858, the first floor had a post office and the second floor had government offices and a Custom House for goods imported into the city of Georgetown. Eventually, Georgetown merged into the District of Columbia and the Custom House left the building, but the post office remained.

"It's kind of cute that it's historic," said George Washington University sophomore Jordan Davy, who dropped by the post office Friday. "It's kind of cute -- and quaint."

Davy and many other Georgetown residents interviewed for this story said they appreciated having a historic post office in their neighborhood.

Clarissa Gimbel, who lives in Georgetown, regularly runs errands at the post office. She says it's more like an imposing bank or a beautiful house than a post office.

Stefan Hurray, a Georgetown architect, visited the post office, located at 1215 31st St. NW, on Friday.

"It's a pretty old building and it feels like it's been here as long as Georgetown," he said.

Residents sometimes pass by without giving it a glance. Others drop packages off in the blue metal boxes outside, missing out on the high ceilings, ornamented columns and skylights inside. On Friday, the facility did a brisk business, as customers waited patiently to send out packages and mail. The building has also served as an informal meeting house, where residents run into their neighbors for a quick chat while checking mailboxes.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation says the Postal Service is trying to sell valuable historic buildings nationally.

"[The sales] had been focused on California pretty intensively," said Christina Morris, a program officer with the National Trust. "It's now starting to move to the Northeast."