Post Office history
Although Denison has had a mail service from almost the very beginning of the town, it was 1908 before construction of the permanent building that we know today got under way. Actually, a picture showing the foundation being put into place was taken 100 years ago on May 21, 1910.
U.S. Post Office at Denison under construction
231 West Woodard Street
Munson Block at upper right.
The post office was located there at 301 W. Woodard before its own building was built
Mail delivery has come a long way since that first delivery service. Although construction of the post office began in 1908, the building wasn't completed until January 1912. Today, except for a few additions through the years, the building looks exactly the same way it did them. There is no doubt that it was built to last.
Evidently building at Woodard Street and Rusk Avenue was tedious business for the crew headed by Fell and Ainsworth, project contractors.
In the attached photo a stonemason can be seen working in the center.
On the right, across Rusk Avenue is what is now the Munson building that was where the post office first was housed. In the center of the photo is the M.T. Mathes Livery Stable with a sign on the side advertising "The National Soda Cracker, Uneda Biscuit". On the left side of the picture is D.K. Thompson's second hand furniture store. I'm not sure about the other buildings that can be seen.
Charles W. Nelson was the first postmaster, but when the building was under way, it was William J. Scott who had been appointed postmaster in July 1907 who followed the project.
Denison was a prosperous and growing city of 15,000 residents around the turn of the century. Grayson County was one of the richest counties in North Texas, according to the Denison Post Office Guide that was published compliments of W.M. Nagle, postmaster in 1899.
The guide listed Denison's elevation as 700 feet with an almost perfect natural drainage, assisted by a modern and well constructed sewage system. It had fine water and abundant rainfall with mild and pleasant temperature free from extremes of heat or cold. That guide must have been written to attract newcomers to town. We've certainly had an abundance of rainfall in recent weeks and temperatures have been mild and pleasant. But we should enjoy them while we can.
During those years Denison was handling a lot of cotton, grain, fruit and produce all year long meaning every season was good for trading or shipping, according to the guide.
Chas H. Jones had a "Big House Furnishing Store" and "Kingston Has It," already was the theme for its prescriptions and rug store. Hall-Leeper Hardware Co., carried "Majestic" ranges and Cook had the "Michigan" Gasoline Store that was billed as the perfect "Can't Blow Our Stove'."
Hibbard Brothers was the "largest, best equipped and most progressive grocery house in Denison." Pucket's Book Store carried books, stationery, wall paper and paints at 415 West Main and claimed it was "no trouble to answer questions or show goods."
Tignor & Mosse manufactured and sold farm and spring wagons, buggies, harnesses and other supplies at 424 and 426 West Main. The National Bank of Denison had capital of $200,000 and surplus of $18,000 with C.S. Cobb as its president. Fine platinum photos were a specialty with Moore, the Photographer at 210 West Main and wheels were rented and repaired by Wingren Brothers, Bicycles and Repairs at 111-1/2 N. Rusk Ave.
John Dunbar was "Everybody's Shoemaker" at 210 S. Austin Ave., and Boldrick made ladies' shoes, a study "with special care as to qualities and styles."
J.J. Webster, at 210 N. Rusk, just opposite the post office, had a half-page advertisement claiming, "I live to dye and I dye to live, and the more dyeing the better I live. I dye clean and repair old clothing. Ladies I dye any color you wish. My work I guarantee or no pay. I also re-cover and repair umbrellas and parasols of all kinds. Old clothing bought, sold and exchanged. I also take orders for new goods. Please call and see samples." There is little doubt that Mr. Webster had a successful business.
Diamond Bakery at the corner of Main and Fannin made bread and rolls and S.B. Franklin at the corner of Woodard and Austin paid careful attention to special wood or iron work and did expert buggy and horse shoeing and wagon painting.
J.C. Bisbee had the right idea for his grocery business at 120 N. Rusk. He said you could save money by buying groceries for CASH! S.W. Lane, optician, tested eyes free and made frames to order from gold, silver or steel, and adjusted them to the nose.
The Denison Herald, "an up-to-date daily newspaper" could be purchased for 60 cents a month for the daily paper or $10 a year for a once a week issue.
The guide listed many other Denison businesses in the late 1800s as well as suggestions to users for short or long distance telephones. User were urged to "answer your bell promptly." And to call the figures of the telephone number - one, two, two, instead of one hundred and twenty-two. This was during the day of the "number please" operator who wanted users to call by numbers, not by names.
Subscribers who were bothered by their neighbors asking to use their telephones all the time could have this nuisance stopped by talking with the manager of the telephone exchange. Things surely have changed in the last 100 years. Even children have their own phones these days. We punch the number into our cell phones and can make calls around the world.
The mail at that time was carried by the Houston and Texas Central, Texas & Pacific and Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads and one or the other arrived in or left from Denison almost every hour from 6:50 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.
In 1914 a Parcel Post Rural Route Directory was published listing residents on the rural routes outside of Denison.
Denison had a Kress 5-10 and 25-cent store and R. Lamb was paying the highest price for fat cattle and hogs and the highest market price for all livestock. Mr. Lamb' name was appropriate for the owner of such a business.
Everyone was drinking Gay-Ola, the improved cola. Gay-Ola was manufactured right here in Denison with such flavors as Chocolate, Peach Mellow, Ginger Ale, Sour Lemon, Sweet Lemon, Strawberry, Cream, Wina Vina and other flavors. I'm sure one of those flavors hit the spot on those "mild and pleasant temperature days" in Denison.
DONNA HUNT is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United States Government Building (Post Office)
Location: 231 West Woodard Street
Official Location: OTP Block 38, Lots 9-15
Year Erected: 1910–12
There was a commercial livery
stable at the northeast corner of Woodard Street and Rusk Avenue, across from
the Munson Block. As early as 1896,
This two-story limestone building is an excellent example of the Spanish/ Neoclassical Revival style. Rectangular in plan, with a red tile hipped roof, it has round-arched window openings with consoled keystones at the top of each one. Stone pilasters divide the facade into seven bays. The second-floor windows have wrought-iron balconets. There is a hatch in the roof where the flagpole used to be. The original multi-paned windows have been replaced. There is a 1965 addition to the east.
The building's design is attributed to James Knox Taylor, an architect in the employ of the federal government, who designed a very similar post office in neighboring Sherman in 1905.
Cast-iron light fixture outside U.S. Post Office
231 West Woodard Stree
Nice balconies and stonework, too!
Photo by Rachel Willis, July 2010.
Used by permission.
Major Robert Marshall Grubbs, Postmaster
F.B. Hughes, Postmaster
Elaine Nall Bay