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Post Office took shape through rain, sleet, bankruptcy, deaths

Last week we discussed the incarnations of the Westminster Post Office — but there are more stories to tell. In 1934, folks began to wonder if the "new" post office at the corner of Longwell Avenue and East Main Street would ever be finished.

Of course, the present post office is on Woodward Road, but here's the story of that classic 1934 office (now home to Kohn Publishing) in the downtown area:

"The old story that 'good things come to those who wait' is true, for travel where you will, a finer and more beautiful post office building will not be found…," according to an old newspaper clipping from Aug. 24, 1934.

"Now that the new building is about to open, it may be of interest to tell the story all over again. It is a long story running from April 1931, when the Government made final negotiations for the purchase of the site from the B.F. Shriver Co …"

"By an Act of Congress, appropriation was made for the erection of a number of post offices … and Westminster was named as one of them. The sum appropriated for the local building was $120,000."

"On May, 1931, contractor Harry D. Ditman and his force of men began the demolition of the Shriver building, the Shriver office being moved to its present location along the Manchester road."

It may be of interest for those fans of Westminster architectural trivia that as the Shriver building was demolished, the entire brown stone entranceway removed and re-installed in its "new" office building on Railroad Avenue (Route 27), just north of Westminster opposite the Wheeler auto dealership, where it remains to this day.

"In April, 1932, the Government awarded the contract to Quaker City Masonry Co., but they withdrew and the Brooklyn and Queens Screen Manufacturing Co., Long Island, accepted the contract for $73,375."

Work began on the project on May 25, 1932. "Frederick Burr, Engineer of the U. S. Treasury Department, was assigned to the job. … The following day, with no special ceremony, Postmaster Harry M. Kimmey and Mayor George E. Matthews proceeded to the site and turned the first shovel of dirt.

"In September, the contraction firm was in receivership and the job laid idle for some time. The sudden death of postmaster Harry M. Kimmey on Sept. 12 came as a shock to the community.

Kimmey's death wasn't the only one to mar the project. According to newspaper accounts, on Oct. 27, Burr, while returning to Washington, crashed into a culvert. He died in Walter Reed Hospital on Nov. 2. Lewis Newman was named to take his place as engineer.

"Work continued ... under the bonding engineers. The building was under roof and the plastering was nearing completion when again work was stopped. This time the Bonding Company was in receivership.

"Thursday, March 29, (1934) word came that Lewis Newman, the government engineer, had died. … It was also about this time that word was received that Robert Waldie, engineer for the bonding company, had been killed on a construction job in Philadelphia."

Miraculously, the building was finally ready, in September 1934.

When he's not visiting the awesome Westminster Post Office employees, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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