We began a review last week of post offices over the years in Live Oak and ended with a discussion of a new post office to be constructed in 1906 just south of the Courthouse. Today, we continue…
J. H. W. Hawkins of Jacksonville (formerly of New York) was the architect for the new building. Robert Hugger, Emile S. Hugger and Fred Hugger of Montgomery, Alabama, doing business as the Hugger Brothers, were hired to construct the building for a cost of $11,000 (more than $285,000 today). The Hugger Brothers had already constructed the County Courthouse in 1904 and dozens of miles of roads for Suwannee County over the previous years, so they were well-known and respected in the County. The new building’s specifications (the originals of which still reside in the Clerk of Court’s Office today) show that the two-story brick building was to be made of local sand-lime brick, with local artificial stone and long leaf yellow pine used as well. The structure would be completely wired for electricity. The building was completed with a post office on the first floor and local businesses and County offices on the second floor. However, within a few short years, the postal area of the building was found to be inadequate. The search was underway yet again for a new location.
The May 30, 1908, Federal Public Buildings Bill authorized the purchase of a site in Live Oak for a post office at a cost of $7,500. The site chosen was located at the northwest corner of Ohio Avenue and Parshley Street (which was also called Broad Street at the time). It was purchased on January 10, 1910, from Nellie Airth (widow of W. S. Airth) and shown reserved as the “Site for Government Building” in a 1912 insurance map. The circa 1887 two-story brick Bishop Blackwell House had originally been situated there, but it was moved in June of 1910 (while owned by Nellie Airth) to save it for future use and make room for the new government building. The Blackwell House remains today just west of its original location as one of the oldest houses (and almost assuredly the oldest brick house) in Live Oak. Some sources suggest that it is the oldest existing brick house in North Florida.
With a post office site purchased, the next step was to appropriate funding for a structure. The Public Buildings Bill of June 25, 1910, authorized the erection of a building on the site for $45,000. Drawings were prepared and advertised, but the lowest bid was well in excess of the funded amount. Another $15,000 in funding was appropriated. However, Federal policies were holding up construction. Senator Duncan U. Fletcher looked into the matter and reported to the citizens of Live Oak that construction would be deferred for at least three years.
A February 1915 Suwannee Democrat article noted that Congressman Frank Clark had written a letter to the local postmaster informing him that bids for constructing a new Federal Building in Live Oak would finally be advertised within the next two weeks. The bids were opened at the Treasury Department in the first week of April. A week later, B. F. Johnson, representing the H. M. Fissell Company of New York that had been awarded the contract for $67,000 (more than $1.6 million in 2019 dollars), was in town getting preliminary material estimates for the new building. At the time, Mr. Johnson stated that he would be in charge of construction and that work would begin in about two weeks. However, there appears to have been some delay, as the Democrat stated in the first week of June 1915 (nearly two months later) that Fissell and Company would have their men on the job “within a few days.” The architect, J. Ernest Price, was already in Live Oak awaiting the contractors. Price stated that “when the building is completed, it would be perfect in detail and plan.”
More on Live Oak Post Offices next week…
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.