The Old Post Office

Some of our readers may remember the “old” post office that was located on the northwest corner of Washington and Third streets. The post office was part of the Federal Building which also housed the federal courthouse. It was built in 1902-1904 and opened on October 1, 1904. From the first post office in 1816, located in the Prendergast store at the northwest corner of Second and Main Streets, until 1887 when the new postmaster, Charles L. Weeks, moved the post office to the Gokey building at 20 West Third Street, each postmaster moved the post office to a different place. It remained in the Gokey building until the opening of the 1904 Federal Building.

On January 1, 1901, the bids for the construction of the new Federal Building were opened. The newspaper reported what the bids were but did not report which bid was accepted. The low bidders was Kehr & Felton of Buffalo for $108,457 excluding heating apparatus, electric wiring and conduits.

By September 1902 the first layer of the concrete foundation was nearly completed and would be ready for the steel to add to the concrete walls. It was stated that if Jamestown was looking for a permanent water supply, they should look near the Federal Building as much water had invaded the site during the excavation for the foundation. The end of October saw the wall above the high water mark and the brickwork was ready to begin. The steel beams were in place. The brick smokestack which would be in the northwestern corner of the building would weigh 160 tons. The piers that would support the superstructure weighed on the average 96 tons each and the walls would weigh nine tons to the square foot.

In February 1903, the Mt. Moriah Masonic Lodge conducted the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone. By May 1903 the construction crew had begun the bricklaying for the Federal Building.  In October 1903, the reinforced concrete construction roof was well underway, electricians were putting in the conduits for electricity, the outside was finished on two sides and the scaffolding was removed, and the arched tile work would be completed soon. The report was that it was nearing completion and everyone was anxiously awaiting the opening.

It was not until October 1, 1904 that the Federal Building with the post office was open for business. According to the plans that are part of the collection of the Fenton History Center, the interior would have terrazzo floors with Vermont Red marble borders and for the walls, the wainscot would be Vermont Verde Antique marble plus oak paneling and plaster cornices. Some of the court room doors would be leather covered with bronze nail heads. The thresholds were either marble or brass.

In the 1920s an annex was added in the back. Other renovations and changes were made over the years as the post office functions changed. Other branches were opened and some functions were moved to other quarters. By the 1950s, some of the rooms on the third floor were used by other government agencies such as the Marine and Navy recruiters and the Department of Agriculture.  When the Federal Court moved from Jamestown was not found by a quick search. But by the late 1950s, a new post office was needed. The site at the corner of East Third Street and Prendergast Avenue had been purchased in 1940 but World War II delayed the building program. In 1958 Congress approved the funds for the new Post Office and Federal Building. On December 8, 1960, the Post Office moved to the Federal Building at the “other end” of Third Street.

The celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Jamestown Post Office was held at the Fenton History Center Museum at 67 Washington Street, Jamestown, NY from 11:30 to 1:30. Pictured: The drawing of the front elevation of the U. S. P. O., Jamestown, N.Y. These plans were signed by James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect, Treasury Department on November 14, 1901.

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