Richard Warner, D.D.S.

Warner Family Dentistry in Council Bluffs

(712) 328-1100

Richard Warner, D.D.S. Family Dentistry in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Richard Warner, D.D.S. Family Dentistry in Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Dr. Richard Warner

Phone (712) 328-1100

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    (Story by Dr. Richard Warner)

Council Bluffs' Post Offices

The post office recently announced it will be moving to Mall of the Bluffs.  The relocation means vacating the site where it has conducted business almost continuously for over 125 years.

Prior to that the post office moved around quite a bit, more or less at the whim of the postmaster, reflecting the competition of the era between what was known as the “uptown” versus the “downtown” district.  The first head of local mail in Kanesville was Evan M. Green, who started a post office in a one-story log cabin. Operations moved to two other log structures over the next few years.  In 1853 the post office was located in a frame building on South First Street; postmaster Joseph E. Johnson ran a store and published the “Bugle” newspaper out of the same building.  The post office moved to Broadway near First Street, then Broadway and Bryant, and later to Main Street between Broadway and First Avenue before a new building was completed at the present site in 1888.  Congress initially appropriated $100,000 for the structure, adding an additional $50,000 later due to cost overruns incurred when it was discovered wooden pilings needed to be placed under the building for support in the soft soil.

In the earliest days there was no mail delivery; people had to go to the post office and inquire if there were any letters for them.  Some cities started offering delivery for an additional two cents per letter.   An act of Congress in 1863 mandated free delivery within a city— if income from postage at the post office would cover the cost.  By 1900 Council Bluffs had fifteen mail carriers and applied for money to fund one more, a move that prompted the postal superintendent in Washington to note that would give CB one carrier for each 1,700 people, below the national average of one carrier per 2000 population.  The superintendent commented that “Council Bluffs must be a great literary city.  Even in cultured Cambridge, the home of Harvard university, 900 people are served by each carrier.”  A couple of customer inconveniences arose with the advent of mail delivery— the sender needed to know the address of the person they were sending mail to.  Prior to this just a name and city was all that was required.  Also, residents needed to erect a home mail box.  There were no regulations initially, leaving design of the receptacle up to the imagination of the home owner, who typically nailed up a cigar box, burlap bag, or even an old boot.

Rural residents had to journey to town a couple of more decades to pick up their mail.  In Iowa the post office at Morning Sun was first to test rural free delivery in 1896, selected by Senator John Gear as it appeared to be "the most ‘reading’ community in Iowa.”  By 1901 Council Bluffs had two RFD routes with plans to add two more, each about a twenty-five mile route via horse.

As the city grew so did the post office; the building was altered three times and an annex added in 1933.  By 1950 it was discovered the wooden pilings underneath were rotting away.  The building was sinking “at a dangerous and accelerating pace” and there was no way to save it; the building was evacuated in 1951.  

The various agencies in the building scattered to temporary quarters around the city.  The Internal Revenue took up refuge in the Wickham Building, federal court shared the Pottawattamie County Courthouse, and the post office moved most of its operations to the City Auditorium at Bryant Street and Washington Avenue.

The old building was torn down except for a small single story portion of the newer addition which remained as the General Dodge Station for handling parcel post; in 1958 it too was razed.  A new building was planned but the site had to sit as a vacant lot for a half dozen years before construction started on its replacement.  Congress was not swift to provide money for the project, and eventually approved a lease-purchase plan in which private capital could be used.  The new system lead to confusion, with more years slipping by until construction finally commenced in 1958.

The new $1,500,000 building was touted as being of a functional design rather than trying to be artistic.  A modern heating and cooling system controlled by  technological marvels called “thinking tubes”  promised a building that was going to be comfortable year round without ever having to resort to the old fashioned practice of opening windows for ventilation.  The large louver sun shades on windows in the lobbies off the stairwells were cast with quartz chips in cement, designed to combine aesthetics and practicality.

The clock from the tower of the old post office had become something of an icon, and a fund drive was undertaken to save and restore it.  In 1951 the clock was raised 135 feet by a crane and installed in the spire of the Broadway Methodist Church where it remains today.

The first building to serve as a post office at Sixth Street and West Broadway was built in 1888.

An annex was added to the west side of the post office building in 1933.

For nearly a decade the City Auditorium at Bryant Street and Washington Avenue served as the city’s interim post office.

The sixty year old wooden pilings supporting the post office were discovered to be rotting away and causing the building to sink.  It was razed in 1951 and a new federal building planned for the same site.