The Post Office: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

The establishment of a post office is very important to the development of a town. But for Conway, it would be many years before the post office found a permanent home.

Before the post office came, few people got mail. According to the reports of some old settlers, someone in the area would go to Little Rock every two or three months to get the mail for the entire community. Although the first post office within the present boundaries of Faulkner County was reportedly set up at Cadron in 1848, it was too far out for most people to use it.

The first post office near what would be Conway was established in 1871 at Cadron Gap under the name Evans. It was located in a small store run by Green Evans, an early settler, The store was located where the vacant lot is today just south of the Hess gas station on the Old Morrilton Highway.

After the railroad was completed, a post office was established at Conway Station. In the 1880s, the post office building was little more than a tent. This little frame building with a canvas top was located on Oak Street about where the present-day alley is beside the Halter Building. Later, the post office was located for a short time on Front Street north of Oak Street (next door to the Bank of Conway).

Although James K. Williams was named the first regular postmaster in April, 1871, R.T. Harrison replaced him three months later. From 1902 until 1924, the post office was housed in Harrison’s store on Front Street where Simon’s Grocery was later located (today American Management).

In 1921, eleven postal employees worked there. In addition, six rural route carriers and four star route carriers (those who carried mail to smaller post offices and patrons on the road along the way) worked out of this office. Fourteen smaller post offices were served from this office.

The Post Office relocated to a building at Van Ronkle and Spencer owned by S.G. Smith (where U.S. Bank is today) in 1924. Four years later, federal funds were finally made available for a post office building. The post office temporarily relocated on Front Street during the construction.

The new building facing Front Street on the southeast corner of Front and Main was built of red brick and Indian limestone. The main lobby was wainscoted in Tennessee marble. It opened in November, 1929. The present Federal Building was remodeled in 2011 to resemble this 1924 post office building.

By 1967, the Conway post office delivered mail to about 3,500 residential boxes and had 4,025 postal recipients in the the business district. Due to better roads and faster means of transportation, the rural routes had been consolidated to four by this time but there were many more people on these routes.

In the late 1960s, the 1929 Post Office building was demolished and replaced with a new Federal Building. The post office occupied temporary quarters on north Front Street while the new building was being constructed. Construction was completed in late 1970. To provide additional parking and a loading area, the federal government purchased the adjacent property where the Bachelor Hotel once stood.

The new 7,000 square-foot two-story Federal Building faced Main Street instead of Front. The post office windows were downstairs in the east part of the lobby while the nearly 1,200 rental boxes were located in the west part of the lobby. An elevator in the west end provided access to the various second floor government offices.

In 1972, the post office began to deliver mail in the iconic red, white and blue Jeep vehicles. The nine mail carriers, serving more than 5,000 families, walked their routes in between the various stops around the city.

Mail continued to be delivered by personal vehicles on the rural routes. In the late 1980s, the rural route addresses were changed to accommodate the new 9-1-1 system. Each road was named and each resident was given a new address that included the name of the road.

A West Station post office was constructed in 2000 on Hogan Road. It became the main Conway post office in 2010. After Nabholz Properties remodeled the Federal Building in 2011, various businesses, including the Log Cabin Democrat, leased space in it. Some postal services are still provided in the east lobby.

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