The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Foundation looks to old post office building's future

 

August 3, 2018

David Grieder

High Plains Historical Foundation members Aulton Rose and Wilma Fulgham discuss pictures documenting the 1931-1932 construction of Clovis' old post office at Fourth and Mitchell streets, now on the National Register of Historic Places.

CLOVIS - For almost four decades after its completion in 1932, the building at Clovis' Fourth and Mitchell streets was the town's post office, with depressions in the marble floor still evincing those spots where thousands of customers stood at the counter or pivoted at a window. For almost two decades following it was the library; then it held architects, and on Wednesday evening it held members of the High Plains Historical Foundation, entertaining a distant future for the place as museum of local history.

"Buildings don't go away; they just get recycled into something else," said Paul Reed, a Clovis architect and only the third owner in the building's history. "A lot of this town has been in this building, at least once in their life, in some form or fashion."

Reed has owned the building since 2000; before that it was Eldon Smith since 1990, and for almost 60 years prior it was the government. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, joining less than a dozen Clovis structures on that list. Among them are the Clovis Central Fire Station across the road and the Hotel Clovis, which went up concurrent with the 1931 construction of the old post office.

Many of the nearly two-dozen HPHF members in attendance Wednesday shared their memories of the building over the years, such as playing on its exterior as children, gossiping in the main post office lobby or watching cats lounge in the space during its period as a library, from 1971-1989. One attendee recalled working in the mail room in a time when the post master still reserved the right to discreetly monitor his employees through spy holes built into the architecture, designed to thwart theft in an age when envelopes regularly carried the temptation of cold, hard cash.

"They did have a slot in the wall, and you never knew when you might be seen or caught," Reed explained, referring to the Panopticon-esque loss-prevention design. "Even in the bathroom, you were looked at. Back in that day ... it was an accepted form of security."

Those weren't the only details of interest for Reed, who said as an architect he was keen to see after the building's preservation and hopes to one day leave it for a public use befitting its past. The 6,000 square-foot basement, as large as the main floor, boasts window wells and used to hold different government entities, while the attic has a four-inch concrete floor where "you can play basketball," he said.

Reed uses the space primarily as a renting venue for group events, and also puts on tours there for groups that have ranged from one person to sixty. He told the HPHF he still wants to live there, even briefly, but eventually hoped to bequeath it back to the city or otherwise to the community after his passing.

But if that's what HPHF is waiting for then it will be a while yet for them to fulfill their vision of a museum, housed in a local "landmark building," to document the history of Clovis and the surrounding area. That's the long-term goal of their fundraising efforts, the most proximate of which is a raffle for an old-west Henry Golden Boy rifle. Their aim is to sell 2,000 tickets at about $5 each, said President Patsy Delk.

"I'm not giving it away yet, I'm still healthy," Reed added. "But it would be great to have it go back to the community."

 

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