1896 building is a downtown landmark
MANKATO — The Postal Service is planning on selling its historic downtown Mankato building and moving its retail operations elsewhere in the city.
In a letter to Mayor Eric Anderson, the Postal Service explained the move, saying that it’s “facing the most critical period in its history.”
“In the face of unsustainable deficits, the Postal Service must seek ways to cut costs and reduce the size of its infrastructure,” the letter states.
The Postal Service will speak to the City Council during its June 23 meeting.
Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said the Postal Service intends to keep serving customers elsewhere in the downtown area. Mail carriers will be moved to the mail processing center, at 851 Summit Avenue.
The post office and federal courthouse was completed in April 1896. Built from Mankato limestone, it was lavishly praised by newspapers of the day, according to records from the Blue Earth County Historical Society.
In a roundabout way, that pride was evident in a brief story in the Mankato Record a month later that asked customers to stop spitting on the floor. The marble’s rich white surface was easily stained by tobacco spit, though there was an “ample supply of spittoons.”
A four-faced clock that adorned the tower was illuminated by 24 gas jets, and its pumps were powered with city water. It required frequent repairs, though, and was removed when the building was expanded in 1933.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. That designation offers it virtually no protection, though. The building isn’t listed on Mankato’s list of historic properties, which would have granted it more protection.
Even without formal protection, the public lobby “retains remarkable integrity,” according to the city’s Historic Context Study.
Jessica Potter, the historical society’s executive director, said she’s not an expert on the building, but that it appears to be well preserved. This bodes well for the building’s prospects for reinvestment.
“If that bridge ever gets crossed,” she said of the sale, “I hope that’s what happens to it.”
A Wednesday afternoon customer, Mankato resident Marilyn Bennett, said news of the sale was upsetting.
“It’s a gorgeous building, but, my gosh, to turn it into apartments or a mall costs a huge, huge amount of money,” she said. The alternative, though, would be worse.
“If no one buys it, it’ll deteriorate over time, and that would be horrible,” she said.
The building has also served as a federal courthouse, and bankruptcy hearings are still held there.