February 17, 2019

It Took 18 Years to Build the Post Office

Prescott PO & Federal Building when brand new.
The people of Prescott were excited when, in 1913, a sizable portion of the southern end of the Plaza district was approved to be the site of a new federal building and post office. It would be the first post office built by the US government in Prescott--perhaps even in Yavapai County.

Unfortunately, for nearly 18 years, this plot of land at 101 West Goodwin Street would largely remain a yawning cavity on the Plaza, until the building finally opened its doors in 1931. 

The location was chosen from land owners who offered to sell their property for the project. However, it took an additional two years before the feds actually paid for the lot.

However, from here, the project fell into a blackhole. Economic fluctuations and plain, old Washington inertia were the cause. 

Finally, in the summer of 1930, bids were accepted from 13 companies for the job with only one coming from inside Arizona. The winning bid was submitted by Robert E McKee of El Paso, Texas for $207,700. 

The new federal building would house the National Forest Office and the Post Office on the first floor, with the District Federal Court and the United States Marshall’s northern office on the second floor. The third floor would hold various federal attorney's offices with the basement holding “store rooms and a recreational room for postal employees.” 

“The new post office...will be one in keeping with the latest design and one which the residents of this city may well be proud,” the paper assured. “Blueprints of the building show an impressive, substantial structure 74 x 100 feet, typical of government buildings. It will be a dignified and beautiful addition to the Plaza.” McKee would have 480 days to finish the job. 

Although it was expected to take 60-90 days to approve the bid, this portion of the process went quickly. The very next week, the headline in the Evening Courier proclaimed: “Postal Building Contract Let.”

The story of Prescott's only 2 story brothel as told by artifacts found in an archeological survey of the red-light district.

“A superintendent, engineer and an assistant arrived in early September, 1930 to oversee the construction, and all other labor will be hired in Prescott,” McKee declared. Vyne Brothers Electric company was chosen to oversee the local procurement of “lumber, cement and other available building materials.” The Vynes would also win the contract for the installation of the electrical wiring.

“The actual beginning of the construction of the federal building has been awaited anxiously here for several months,” the newspaper noted. “It brings to reality a hope of long standing.” 

Locals hoped and lobbied for “native granite and brick (to) form the outside of the walls,” but they would soon be disappointed.

Merely two days after their petition, it was reported that local granite and brick would not be used in the project. Instead, four carloads of Indiana limestone and one of Minnesota granite were shipped. 46,000 facing bricks were manufactured in Los Angeles. 

Local material used would consist of 371,000 common bricks manufactured in Phoenix; with lumber, cement and fire clay provided by the Foxworth-Galbraith lumber company. Gravel and sand were extracted from Granite Creek.

The cornerstone laying was scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 22nd, 1931. “Every resident of Prescott and its enviros is urged to be on hand…in his best bib and tucker, at the formal laying of the cornerstone of the new Prescott Federal Courthouse and Post Office rain or shine,” the paper admonished.

“Little urging...is believed necessary because the citizens of Prescott and these parts have been waiting for years and years for just such an opportunity, signalizing the erection of the new federal building at a choice downtown location,” the paper continued.

The account of the first Carnegie Library in Arizona. It was brought to Prescott, AZ by a group of educated women called The Monday Club.

Prescott Elks Lodge, No. 330, was responsible for the cornerstone ceremony. It was reported that 2000 people attended the event—when Prescott’s population was about 5500. At first, the sun shined for a glorious parade that included the Prescott High School Band, various veterans, city officials and the Boy Scouts. 

An American flag was placed on the stone as well as four wreaths of flowers. First, white flowers were placed denoting charity. Second was a wreath of purple flowers representing justice. Then a wreath of blue flowers representing brotherly love was placed and lastly red, signifying fidelity.

However, a cold, heavy snowstorm suddenly blew in causing the main speaker to cut short his address, when all but several dozen began leaving after the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Construction was completed on time and on November 16th, 1931, the post office  finally opened—just in time for the Christmas rush. “Prescott’s new post office, in a way, has turned the town around," the paper observed. "That is to say, the southeast corner of the Plaza, comparatively deserted heretofore, has been converted all at once into as busy a corner as there is in the city.”

Box holders were allowed in the previous day to exchange keys and find their box’s location. “All of the postal clerks have been required to work night and day in order open up for business (on time).”

In the end, citizenry was delighted with the final project. “Prescott’s new post office, it is generally agreed, is one of which to be immensely proud. It’s like entering the post office of a big city,” the paper exclaimed.

An index of all the Prescott, AZ History articles involving historic buildings, infrastructure and other structures in Yavapai County, Arizona.

#PrescottAZHistory publishes a new article four times a month on Sundays. Follow the blog in one of the following social media to be sure you get the latest article!

Want more Prescott history? Join the "Celebrating Historic Prescott" group.
(Daily pics and featured articles.)
Drew Desmond is on Facebook (For the latest article and posts about Drew's writing.)

Follow the Prescott AZ History Blog on Twitter @PrescottAZHist
(Daily pic featured at 7 am & 7 pm and featured articles.)

Prescott AZ History is on Pinterest
(For the latest article.)

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form; Item 8, Pp. 1-6. Sharlot Hall Museum Archives, Vertical File; Buildings—Post Office.

No comments:

Post a Comment