Tomorrow, February 22, is George Washington’s birthday, but it is also an important day in Governor’s House history; it’s the day the building we currently occupy officially opened to the public in 1937! The building operated very differently on its opening day 83 years ago, but our artifact of the day will give us some insight into what that day must have been like.
The U.S. Post Office and Customs House opened to great fanfare in 1937. The City of St. Augustine chose the date because at that time Presidents Day was still celebrated on George Washington’s birthday, and choosing a federal holiday made it easy for all to attend. The big event was covered as front page news in the St. Augustine Record, which gives us a great account of the celebration. The WPA Military Band traveled from Jacksonville to perform. Then-Mayor Walter B. Fraser made a speech from the balcony that faces the Plaza de la Constitución, and Postmaster J. Herman Manucy fittingly served as the Master of Ceremonies. A noted attendee was J. Austin Latimer, the Special Assistant to the Postmaster General. He was the guest of honor and was celebrated with a luncheon at the Hotel Ponce de Leon.
This key was one of the many keys issued to customers on February 22 and would be used for over 30 years to open their assigned P.O. box in the building. Some of the original lockboxes were moved further down King Street when the new post office opened in 1964, but a few of them still appear in our lobby today. Next time you find yourself in downtown St. Augustine, come have a look inside and spot the hints of the post office!