Shanty to Brick: The Story of Northfield’s Post Office
A brief history of the buildings the Northfield Post Office has occupied.
Since 1855, Northfield has always had a post office. The first building was somewhere called “Fountaine Grove.” The historical record does not indicate where exactly it was except that it was either a mile and a half or a mile and a quarter from downtown Northfield.
The first postmaster was Charles Wheeler, who was also Rice County’s second sheriff. The post office was only at “Fountaine Grove” for a few months before it was moved to land owned by William Childs and the building was described as a “shanty.” By 1856, the post office had been upgraded from a shanty to a lean-to that was attached to the J.R. Jones building, the present site of the old Community Resource Bank building and where By All Means Graphics is located today. The address for the post office was 23 Mill Square.
In 1877, local contractor/developer Charles Anderson purchased the J.R Jones building and the lean-to the post office occupied. The Rice County Journal stated that Anderson planned to improve the buildings just as soon as he was done building the new Ames Mill.
On Jan. 2, 1879, the post office moved to 317 Division St., the former site of the Ideal Café. By January 9, the Rice County Journal reported that residents on the west side of the Cannon River were complaining because the post office was not centrally located and it was too difficult to get to.
The post office stayed at 317 Division St. for 14 years until it moved to the Scriver Building in 1893. The Dec. 3, 1893 issue of the Northfield News reported that “the building is not centrally located, but the public space (in the Scriver Building) is better to serve the public demand.” The new address was 22 Mill Square.
As the demand for more rural route carries increased, the post office decided to move to the McKay Building, formerly Permans at 314 Division St. The post office stated they needed to move to allow the rural carries easier access to the building.
In 1935, construction of the current post office building started. It was to be funded by the Workers Progress Administration (WPA). The postmaster was Carl Heibel.
Before construction began there was a big debate on the location of the new building. The debate was mainly between east and west side residents. The west side residents finally approved of the current site of the post office as long as it faced the “central bridge” (Fourth Street bridge).
The only problem was that the government had standard plans for square post office buildings.
After many interested parties lobbied, a special act of Congress approved a $3,200 expenditure to hire an architect to design a new post office for the wedge shaped land. The current building was occupied on Nov. 1, 1936.
Editor's note: All images used in this story belong to the Northfield Historical Society. If you want a copy of any images, please call the Society at 507-645-9268.