Now known as the Courthouse Annex, the building still contains a U.S. Postal Service branch which is now potentially on the federal operation’s chopping block.
Yet, it is considered a crucial element of downtown history and a valuable resource to the businesses located there.
“The downtown post office is an important part of the downtown business community. Many businesses choose downtown as a location because of the convenient access to banking and the post office. It is very accessible, where the 25th Street location is already extremely congested,” said MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr.
According to earlier Banner reports, the United States Postal Service is studying 3,653 local post office branches for possible closure, including the downtown location. Three Chattanooga locations are also on the list, according to reports.
Local mayors have or will express concerns about these plans to state and federal leaders.
Ironically, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland in 2007 requested consideration of an additional Cleveland branch of the Postal Service, citing “Cleveland’s growth into a metropolis” as justification.
In an earlier Banner story, Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis both expressed disappointment to see the downtown location on the list for possible closure. Both mayors plan to write U.S. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.
“I will let him know the importance of our historic downtown office and ask that it not be closed,” Rowland said. “I understand the decision is not yet confirmed, so I hope I can help keep this from happening. I will also write U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann to let them know my objection.”
Davis said the action would result in more than an inconvenience to downtown businesses and government.
“It will drive up the cost to downtown businesses and local government,” he said. “Traffic at the Keith Street branch is already congested. Closing the downtown location will only create a worse situation.”
Other downtown merchants, professionals and services agree with the mayors.
“The Museum Center at Five Points has always used the downtown post office for all our postal needs due to the convenience of its location,” said Lisa Lutts of the museum. “We are very short staffed, so it helps us to be able to quickly go to the downtown office to get our mail from our post office box and do our mailings. It would take considerable time out of our day if we had to go to the Keith Street branch, especially due to the lines that are often there. It would cut into our productivity if the downtown post office closed.”
Missy Bilbo of Bilbo Law Office on Ocoee Street agreed with Rowland and Davis.
“One of the main reasons we located our office downtown was for convenience to the post office and banking,” Bilbo explained.
“[Her husband] Jim practices law all over the state and we visit the downtown branch of the post office several times a day either picking up parcels or mailing them. We have massive mailouts,” she said.
“If we were to have to go to the other location several times each day, that would take quite a bit of time away from our other office responsibilities and create quite an inconvenience,” Bilbo said.
The Bilbos recently renovated a historical landmark in downtown Cleveland and a love of the history of the city also plays into their thoughts about losing the downtown post office facility.
Nicholas Spring was appointed the first Cleveland Postmaster on Sept. 9, 1836, just after Bradley County was established and the city of Cleveland was formed.
In 1910, the building which now houses the downtown branch and is now known as the Courthouse Annex was under construction. It was completed the following year.
In 1977, the USPS purchased land on Keith Street and on April 27, 1981, moved operations to the Keith Street facility. The address was 1981, and was given in commemoration regarding the new facility.
The continued operation of the post office branch downtown was firmed up when Eddie Cartwright, who was county executive in 1984, proposed the county buy the building.
Stamper’s has been in business on the Courthouse Square since 1945.
Joe Stamper said the historical value of the downtown branch is very important to him.
“Naturally, it is a convenience to have the post office in downtown and we have great service, but the old antique post office boxes are here. We have lost so much downtown and would hate to lose this significant piece of our city’s history,” Stamper said.
The list of offices being studied can be found at http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/expandedaccess/statelist.htm