During the Great Depression, the United States Treasury Department funded the construction of new post offices throughout the United States. These projects not only provided work for many people, but also improved the built environment of small towns and lifted the spirits of their citizens.
Louisburg benefitted from this trend. According to The Franklin Times, the town had sought a new post office for “twenty-five years or more.” Congressman Harold D. Cooley announced in June 1936 that the United States Treasury Department and the postmaster general had allotted funds for the purchase of a lot on which the government planned to build a new federal building. It was assumed that this structure would house a post office and provide space for other government agencies.
Several local property owners offered to sell lots. Postmaster T. Mortimer Harris opened two formal bids in July 1936. These were for the Taylor lot, located on the southwest corner of Main and Franklin streets, and the Shaw property on the opposite side of Main Street. Mr. Harris received notification in late August that the government had purchased the Taylor lot from Mrs. Missouri Alston Pleasants for $8,900. The lot measured 122 feet by 155 feet.
The Procurement Division of the Public Buildings Branch in March 1937 published a request for sealed proposals for the construction of the new post office. These were to be based on plans prepared under the direction of Louis A. Simon, the Treasury department’s supervising architect. On April 9, the government awarded the contract to a contractor in Greensboro, L. B. Gallimore, whose firm later built a similar post office in Kings Mountain. Gallimore proposed to build the structure for $36,490 and agreed to complete it within 210 calendar days.
Excavation of the basement and work on the foundation commenced in early May, and the building was ready for occupancy by the beginning of October. On the evening of September 30, Postmaster Harris and his staff moved equipment and furnishings from the old post office, which was located on the north side of West Nash Street, near the present location of the Louisburg Town Hall. The first customer at the new location, Jailor R. M. Minor, purchased four three-cent stamps. The Franklin Times reported that the first letter received for dispatch was from Postmaster Harris to Congressman Cooley. Dated October 1, 1937, the letter expressed appreciation for Cooley’s assistance in obtaining funds for the building. County Historian Daniel T. Smithwick posted the second letter, which also thanked Congressman Cooley for his support.
Two years later, artist Richard Kenah completed a colorful mural above the door to the postmaster’s office. Kenah’s oil on canvas painting depicts a tobacco auction, which at that time took place each fall in Louisburg’s tobacco warehouses.
The new post office, built and decorated within three years of a major renovation of the Franklin County Courthouse (1936), undoubtedly gave encouragement to citizens weary of the Great Depression.
Published in The Franklin Times on October 22, 2015.
Photos credit: Views of the construction of the Louisburg post office courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at email@example.com. He wishes to thank Kim Andersen of the State Archives of North Carolina for her assistance.