Sunday, January 8, 2012

Post Office/Custom House

Galena's Post Office as it appeared on July 2, 1900.
The present Post Office was initiated by Congressman Washburne and appropriated for by Congress on August 18, 1856, after Galena outgrew its original main street store which was established in 1826. Construction on the Post Office/Customs House began in 1857 with the best quality grantie was shipped up the Mississippi from Nauvoo. 
The footings and foundation were laid in the fall and pig lead approximately the weight of the completed building was placed on the foundation and left until the following spring when construction began.  The Weekly Northwestern Gazette of August 9, 1859 said "the building is so substantial it will last 1,000 years with only two forces capable of destroying it, one being an earthquake and the other a mob."
Ammi B, Young the Supervising
 Architect of the Post Office
Two men played major roles in the construction of the Post Office. The first was the Supervising Architect for the Ofiice of Construction, Treasury Department, Ammi B. Young. Some of Young's works include the Treasury Building in DC and the Territorial Capitol Building of New Mexico, he also had what many at the time considered as the leading design for the US Capitol, but eventually lost. The other being a man mentioned in a previous post, Ely S. Parker who held the title of Construction Superintendent. Ammi B. Young had a grandiose vision for the Post Office, including many of today's features, these include the mahogany counters in the lobby and the high solid oak doors on the second floor.
The Post Office has been used for many functions during its 152 year history.  In 1859, the 2nd floor, which housed the Customs House was used for many social gatherings including a party thrown for a soldier on November 16, 1861.  Also, the second floor was used as the Public Library until the present-day building was built in 1902.
Galena was the nation's first Post Office to be designated by the Smithsonian as "A Great American Post Office".  For this distinction a Post Office must meet two of the following three criteria:
1. Outstanding architectural features.
2. Historical significance to the community.
3. Outstanding service to the community.
Galena's met all three.
Today it is the oldest continually owned and operated Post Office in America.

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