Asheville Archives: Pritchard Park replaces the old post office

DOUBLE TAKE: Top, the former post office, built in 1892. Below, the current site of Pritchard Park, which replaced the structure in 1932. Top photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville. Historical and location research and bottom photo by Will McLeod
DOUBLE TAKE: Top, the former post office, built in 1892. Below, the current site of Pritchard Park, which replaced the structure in 1932. Top photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville. Historical and location research and bottom photo by Will McLeod

On March 12, 1931, Asheville’s city park commission resolved to name the site of a future small, triangular park in honor of Jeter C. Pritchard. According to The Asheville Citizen, which included the resolution in print the following day, the commission declared:

“[T]he Honorable Jeter C. Pritchard served faithfully and well the State of North Carolina as United States senator, and later served with distinction as senior member of the United States circuit of appeals … and at all times led in civic movements for the uplifting and betterment of the city of Asheville, and was intimately identified with and interested deeply in the progress and welfare of this community, and was recognized as one of its outstanding leaders and citizens, and for many years and at the time of his death was a citizen of Asheville[.]”

When the resolution was made, however, the location of this future park still housed Asheville’s former post office. Built in 1892, the three-story brick building served the city’s residents for 38 years. It closed in 1930. On Feb. 11, 1932, after sitting vacant for two years, local contractor P.W. Bordner began work to raze the structure. Along with replacing it with a park, the city planned to widen the surrounding streets.

On Feb. 21, 1932, the Sunday edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times ran an article titled, “RAZING OF OLD BUILDING HERE RECALLS PAST.” In it, the newspaper offered a complete list of the city’s former postmasters, along with significant years and dates associated with local and national mail service. Some notable happenings included:

  • On Jan. 1, 1801, Asheville’s first post office was established; its first postmaster was Jeremiah Cleveland.
  • In 1838, all railways in the United States were declared to be post routes.
  • In 1840, envelopes were invented. Prior to this, the article noted, “letters were generally written on single sheets of paper and then folded.”
  • On July 1, 1847, the first postage stamp was placed on sale in New York City.
EAST ON PATTON: A look at how things have changed over the decades. Top photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville. Historical and location research and bottom photo by Will McLeod

A month after the building was razed, the city’s longest-serving employee, William M. Jarrett retired from his letter carrier position. Jarrett’s career began in 1893, a year after the building was completed.

On March 6, 1932, the Sunday edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times reported on the ways in which the industry had changed during Jarrett’s 39-year tenure:

“Methods of carrying mail and operation of city routes have undergone radical changes since Mr. Jarrett entered the service. Sacks were not used by carriers then. Letters were held together by a large rubber strap, the postman carrying them under an arm. … Only a few of the streets had sidewalks, and the sidewalks were wooden planks.

“The average mail route prior to 1900 was approximately 15 miles long and only one delivery was made each day. Now the routes are much shorter, but the carrier must handle more mail and make two rounds daily. There were only six postmen in the city proper when Mr. Jarrett launched his career. Now, there are 34.”

On Dec. 17, 1932, The Asheville Citizen reported:

“Pritchard park, bare since the old post office building which formerly stood on its site was torn down, is rapidly being made one of the beauty spots of the city.

“For several days city workers, under the direction of C.D. Deals, superintendent of the Vanderbilt estate at Biltmore, have been busy setting out trees, shrubbery and hedges.”

Editor’s note: Peculiarities of spelling and punctuation are preserved from the original documents.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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2 thoughts on “Asheville Archives: Pritchard Park replaces the old post office

  1. bsummers

    Asheville Archives: Pritchard Park replaces the old post office

    Were there people back then claiming that we would all die shivering in the dark if the City didn’t put a hotel there instead?

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