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Anoka Post Office

Contributor: 
Johannes Allert
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Color image of the Historic Post Office building in Anoka, 2008. Photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Elkman.

Historic Post Office building in Anoka, 2008. Photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Elkman.

Designed by the famed Minnesota architect James Knox Taylor, Anoka’s oldest extant public building, built in 1916, is known for its classic Georgian Revival style.

Irving Caswell, the city’s former post master, served as editor of the Anoka Herald in the early 1900s. In 1911, he encouraged Taylor to launch a series of newspaper articles lobbying for the construction of a post office in Anoka. Taylor prevailed, and construction of the post office began in 1916. Its façade displays key elements of the classical style—Neo-Palladian windows, a dentillated cornice, and a fan window over the main entrance.

While it served as Anoka’s Post Office, the building reflected the steady growth of the community. By 1925, the number of addresses receiving deliveries inside the city surpassed 600. Consequently, the postal service added a second carrier to the staff and divided the delivery into two routes. They measured growth by the number of transactions logged.

In 1933, the Anoka Post Office handled $23,193.80 in receipts. Five years, later that number increased to $60,000 and the facility employed eighteen workers. By 1954, the receipts totaled $103,055.94 and the facility’s employment had nearly quadrupled.

The post office weathered more than just growth and expansion. In 1939, it was one of the few public buildings to withstand a devastating tornado that ripped through the area and served as gathering place for survivors of the destruction.

During World War II, the office achieved a “first class” rating. The distinction made it a choice location to purchase not only postal stamps but also war bonds to support the U.S. military’s efforts overseas. The facility also served as a place for those of eligible age to register for the draft.

Post-war growth and the demands of a vibrant community led to the construction of a new postal facility on Seventh Avenue. On October 22, 1977, the old Anoka Post Office delivered its last parcel of mail.

In 1978, the federal government put the site up for sale, and a year later it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The initial price tag and the costs associated with renovating and repurposing the building, however, prevented many, including the Anoka County Historical Society, from purchasing it.

Counselor Realty finally stepped forward with a bid and a plan to restore much of the old building to its original grandeur. The greatest obstacle remained the building’s old furnace, which required dismantling and updating from a coal heating system to a gas one. Over the next two years, the company spent $356,000 on construction and restoration.

Throughout the 1990s, the building served as a multipurpose location. A number of businesses and firms cycled through the historic site, including a charter school, a Christian ministry center, a gym, a coin shop, and a real estate company (Counselor Realty).

By 2000, the old post office had evolved once more into a retail space, creating a need for further updates to make the property attractive to shoppers. Interior fountains, along with mural paintings, were installed while the exterior received a flower garden that enhanced the landscape surrounding the building. Over the next fifteen years, the post office housed a tea room, a bridal shop, antique dealers, and a massage parlor. Throughout that time, Counselor Realty remained the one constant fixture.

Anoka’s Post Office building made national news in September 2004, when President George W. Bush visited the site while campaigning for re-election. Bush spent twenty minutes signing autographs, visiting with the public, and posing for photos. Despite his presidential standing, he discovered his order for an egg salad sandwich at the site’s deli could not be fulfilled. Instead, he opted for the special of the day and appeared content.

In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service officially recognized Anoka as a Sesquicentennial station. It produced a stamp featuring a design of the historic post office that became a coveted souvenir. Anoka County’s 150th anniversary, in 2007, created another opportunity for a special event and in 2016 yet a third as the building itself celebrated a centennial anniversary.

Also in 2016, a set of four jack-o-lantern postage stamps was unveiled in the city plaza in recognition of Anoka’s title as “Halloween capital of the world.” A formal dinner sponsored by the Anoka County Historical Society followed the ceremony.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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23-1
Post Office File, 1904–2016
Manuscript Collection, Anoka County Historical Society, Anoka
Description: The file contains an announcement (2002) of the pictorial stamp cancellation.

Anoka Post Office National Register of Historic Places Nomination File, State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/nrhp/NRDetails.cfm-NPSNum=79001180.html
http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/nrhp/nomination/79001180.pdf

Boushek, Sue. “Old Post Office Has New Lease on Life.” Anoka County Union, August 28, 1981.

Caswell, Irving, ed. "How Anoka Excels: Some of the Things Which Make Anoka a Likeable City in Which to Live, In This, the Ninth Article upon the Advantage of Anoka, the Postal Service Here Mentioned." Anoka Herald, February 28, 1911.

Froemming, Mandy Moran. “Old Post Office Building Stands the Test of Time.” Anoka Union Herald, October 7, 2016.

“Post Office to Have Its First Special Cancellation.” Anoka County Union, June 28, 2002.

Walsh, James. “Anoka Gets a First-class Honor.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 25, 2016.

Related Images

Color image of the Historic Post Office building in Anoka, 2008. Photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Elkman.
Color image of the Historic Post Office building in Anoka, 2008. Photographed by Wikimedia Commons user Elkman.
Black and white photograph of a the mail carrier’s (men’s) toilet inside the Anoka Post Office, January 11, 1917.
Black and white photograph of a the mail carrier’s (men’s) toilet inside the Anoka Post Office, January 11, 1917.
Black and white photograph of the lobby of the Anoka Post Office during construction, looking west, March 1, 1917.
Black and white photograph of the lobby of the Anoka Post Office during construction, looking west, March 1, 1917.
Black and white photograph of in-progress construction of the Anoka Post Office, July 5, 1916.
Black and white photograph of in-progress construction of the Anoka Post Office, July 5, 1916.
Black and white photograph of in-progress construction of the Anoka Post Office interior, October 2, 1916.
Black and white photograph of in-progress construction of the Anoka Post Office interior, October 2, 1916.
Black and white photograph of the Anoka Post Office, located on the south-east corner of Main Street and Third Avenue, undated.
Black and white photograph of the Anoka Post Office, located on the south-east corner of Main Street and Third Avenue, undated.

Turning Point

Counselor Realty restores the post office in 1978, updating the structure but preserving its historic character.

Chronology

1916

Construction of the Anoka Post Office begins.

1925

The number of addresses receiving mail deliveries inside Anoka surpasses 600.

1933

The post office handles $23,193.80 in receipts.

1938

The office handles $60,000 in receipts and employs eighteen workers.

1939

The building withstands a devastating tornado.

1954

The post office’s receipts total $103,055.94.

1977

The Postal Service decommissions the Anoka office.

1979

The post office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1978

Counselor Realty buys and restores the building.

2002

The Postal Service recognizes Anoka as a sesquicentennial station.

2004

President George W. Bush visits the Anoka Post Office during a campaign event.

2016

The Postal Service unveils a set of four jack-o-lantern stamps in Anoka, recognizing the city’s status as the “Halloween capital of the world.”