“Old” Itta Bena Post Office

Post Office and East Humphreys Block

Which building do you think was the post office?  According to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the “old post office” was 110 E. Humphreys Street, the red brick, two-story building at the right. They give the date as c. 1925.  Piecing together items about the building history, it was owned by W. F. Townsend and did indeed become the post office in 1927.  There were at least 2 earlier post office locations, and possibly others.

Two-story brick commercial building with inset rectangular panel for signage under soldier course header, flanked by basket-weave masonry panels. Three symmetrically placed second story windows contain replacement 1/1 undersized windows and partial infill.  Former transom has been either in filled or covered and contains three vents, topped by a basket-weave pattern string course. Entry consists of three-light transom over double one-pane doors to the left and a double fixed pane windows to the right.  The remainder of the storefront has been enclosed with unadorned painted wood.  A flat suspended awning shelters the storefront. Unsympathetic alterations have damaged the integrity of this building. (National Register of Historic Places, Itta Bena Historic District, Gatlin & Tietz, 2009)

In 1881, the Benjamin G. Humphreys home was the location of the post office (Gatlin & Tietz, 2009).  Humphreys established a plantation and home, which he named Itta Bena, Choctaw for “home in the woods” and the city of Itta Bena eventually grew from the plantation.  Additional mentions of post offices in Itta Bena were from the 1895 Rand McNally Atlas, the 1902 Greenwood Enterprise item on the new boxes, fixtures, lock boxes, and electric lights of the post office, and the 1918 minutes of the 58th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.  The post office was located in the Harper Building on Schley Street prior to being moved to the above building.

Clarion_Ledger_Thu__Aug_11__1927_

Clarion-Ledger, August 11, 1927.

The post office was moved to the Townsend Building on Humphreys Street, which had been formerly occupied by the Itta Bena Cotton Company.  The Itta Bena Cotton Company had a short life, being established in 1926, and in receivership by May 1927.  It was fortuitous timing for Mr. Townsend that the post office needed a new location.  New fixtures were installed, “which gives the post office the appearance of a city equipment” (Greenwood Commonwealth, Post Office has moved, has new equipment, 25 Nov 1927, p. 1).  The W.F. Townsend building also housed the new Post Office Cafe on the second floor.

They are repairing the roof, putting on a new front, and remodeling the building out and out, and will install only first class fixtures. (New cafe ready in Itta Bena Dec. 1st, Greenwood Commonwealth, 25 Nov 1927, p. 1).

The Rotary Club began to hold their luncheon meetings in the Post Office Cafe in January. (Greenwood Commonwealth, 14 Jan 1928, p. 3).  Townsend was a hardware dealer.  In 1924, he was identified as one of the places of business painting and “otherwise building and improving” businesses and residences, which seems to indicate his building had been constructed at least a year or two earlier.  The tax rolls for Itta Bena list 106 and 108 and those numbers show up on Google maps as the post office building and the building to the right of the post office (not visible in above photo).  However, tax rolls identify the building construction date as 1910 and 1920 respectively, which would mean the “putting on a new front and remodeling out and out” made a significant change that renders the appearance closer to c. 1925 style.

As always, I spent way too much time in the newspaper archives, but that is what self-care and hobbies are for, right?  If anyone has any additional information, please comment!

 

 

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