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And Now You Know: New post office opens in Orange

Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

In November 1960, there was a gathering of national and local dignitaries in Orange to dedicate the new post office. The building had been constructed at a cost of $523,000. There was a single-story postal area and a two story office wing for federal agencies.

The building was designed by the architectural firm Pitts, Mebane, and Phelps and George L. Ingram of Beaumont. Robert H. Smith Construction Company of Houston was the general contractor for the construction of the building.

The modern design of the structure included walls of face brick with stone coping and trim rising from a base of Texas granite. Crushed marble veneer was used for exterior walls facing the main entrance,

Functional lines of the building are broken by a sun control grill shielding the windows across the façade. The building has over 25,000 square feet of floor area. Pastel shades of green are used throughout the building. All ceilings are painted white.

Heating and cooling is provided by a 100-ton central air-conditioning heating and cooling unit.

The announcement for architectural and engineering contracts was made in mid-1957. Construction of the new building was in doubt for several years. The building was finally approved in late 1959 as one of 96 construction projects approved by congress.

While waiting on the new post office to be approved and constructed, Postmaster Howard Turner was working out of an old structure that had been built in 1925 to serve a population of 7,000.

The volume of mail had risen 900 percent since 1938 and the method of handling mail was practically as old as the building itself. A substation had been leased on Division Avenue to help with the flood of mail as the population had increased to 34,926.

Mail handling would now be housed in the new modernistic building using updated handling methods. There were also nine offices in the two-story federal portion of the building.

Postmasters who had served since the old building had been opened in 1925 included Horace Watson, H.C. Arnold, Cecil R. Coale, and H.T. Pitts who had served as acting postmaster before Howard Turner was appointed in 1955.

Representative Jack Brooks stated that the disposal of the old building would be done in accordance with applicable federal statutes.

The General Services Administration was expected to soon be receiving notification that the Post Office Department had concluded its use of the old building and site. Once that was received, other government agencies would then be polled to see if they had a need or use for the building. If no government agency obtained the old building, it would then be made available to a municipality for use.  Federal statutes allowed the purchase by a municipality for 50 percent of the fair market value of the property.

The old post office building was purchased by the City of Orange and converted to use as the city library. It remained in use nearly 20 years until the new library was built on Fifth Street. The old building was then purchased by Lamar State College Orange. Eventually it was torn down and the site used as part of the parking area for the Ron Lewis Library and the administration building.

“And now you know.”