The new Post Office and Federal Court Building was completed in mid-1928, even though the cornerstone says 1927. The contractor’s photo dates are May 10, 1928. It was, and still is, a beautiful building.
We have 1957 architectural plans which tell that the entire eastern side of the first floor of the building (the width of the area extending forward) was the Courtroom with the judge’s bench on the north end of the room. The remainder of the first floor was used by the Postal Department. You will note from the photographs here that the only doors on the building for public entrance were the front doors which are still in place. While the building, from the front view, appears to be a two-story rectangular building, there was an east to west ground floor extension across the entire rear of the first floor of the building, which does not show from a front view.
Views of the east side of the building show no public entrance except the front entrance. Note the size of the section which was the Courtroom. According to the blueprints, it ran from the front of the building to the rear on the east side. Side view of the Post Office before completion
The photo of the unfinished building shows the rear of the building. Note the second floor office area with the extended area on the north side at the rear of the second floor. This writer erroneously stated last week that the stairs from the lobby led to the Courtroom on the second floor, but the 1957 blueprints show that there were only court-related offices on the second floor, specifically, the Marshall’s office, Petit Jury Room, Probation Officer’s office, two District Attorney offices, a large Clerk of the Court’s office and the Judge’s office with secretary offices. The staircases and restroom facilities took the remaining second floor space.
The 1957 blueprints detail how the building was rewired and central air-conditioning was added. The Courtroom was the entire east section of the first floor of the building.
In 1963 considerable property was purchased from the Frank Stone estate and the Methodist Church. Soon afterward the renovation and addition to the original building was begun. J. C. Rainey of Rainey and Fortenberry Construction Company was the contractor.
The 1990 aerial view shows the very large two-story addition which was added, noting the original footprint of the 1928 building. The first floor was all dedicated to the Postal Department’s use, while the second floor held a very large courtroom and auxiliary space for the same type offices as were there originally, only on a much larger scale. There was also a secured area for holding prisoners. An additional public entrance was added at this time on the east side of the building with steps to both floors and an elevator just inside the entrance for handicapped use. A very large covered loading dock was added for the delivery of mail, and a large paved area to accommodate the oversized trucks which transport mail to and from Marianna. The east area of the building which was once the Courtroom was changed into hundreds of postal boxes easily accessible from three different entrances, two of which are never locked, allowing access to one’s post office box at any time of the day or night.
This photo shows how the two buildings were joined, and gives an idea of the size of the addition. The large Courtroom was finished with beautiful wooden paneling throughout. The seating for the spectators was benches of matching wood. These scenes were taken in 2007 when the U. S. Postal Service decided to renovate the second floor into office space, particularly the Courtroom area, which had not been used for many years. When the Federal Court House was built in Panama City, all Federal court cases were moved there.
The Chipola Historical Trust became aware that the work was about to begin and that the contractor had been instructed to dispose of all the paneling, benches and everything related to the Courtroom. The Chipola Trust asked permission from the proper government authorities to be given reusable interior portions of the Courtroom and their request was granted. They were given the paneling, the jurors’ chairs and all accessories connected with the Courtroom, with the possibility of using the material in the Jackson County Administration Building, which was being planned at that time. The County made arrangements for prisoners to assist, and County vehicles and personnel took the material as it was removed by the contractor to a safe and dry place. It has been stored there since 2007 for potential use by the County.
Several years ago there was a very unpopular effort made to move the Post Office out near the west I-10 interchange. Parking had become a problem and the property west of the building held contaminated soil from a previous gas station.
To Marianna citizens’ great relief, the Methodist Church purchased the property for their parking needs on the weekend and evenings, and leased the large, very ample parking lot to the Post Office for their customers’ use during the week.
The Post Office building and the very professional postal employees are a wonderful asset to Marianna. The stately building is used in many ways as an Icon to advertise our beautiful city. It is the hope of the Chipola Historical Trust that these articles on the history of the building will give everyone a better appreciation for the quality and the beauty of the building that houses such a necessary service to the citizens of our area.