by Jim Jans
The location, structure and even the name of a town can be affected by its postal service. As an example the post office in Pomerene caused the name of this rural community to change from the community of Robinson to its present name the community of Pomerene. When Robinson first applied to establish postal service with the federal government the federal government would not approve its establishment as the Robinson Arizona post office since a postal service in Arizona with that name already existed. So the name of the community of Robinson was changed to Pomerene.
Benson has had four post offices since first established in 1880. The criteria for the location of the post office was based on being a location central to the community residential area and accessible by current mode of transportation. The first post office was located on 4th street between Huachuca and Patagonia streets. The post office was between the drug store (currently Quales Art Gallery) and the bank (currently the Southeastern Arizona Federal Credit Union). None of the streets were paved and very few were maintained in those days. The post office was located central to the residential community and provided access by horse and buggy, Very few motor vehicles existed in those days.
Mail was delivered by the railroad, in those days Benson’s major reason for existence. Rural mail was often delivered by horseback.
As the city grew the main street was paved and a new location was sought to accommodate a thriving community. Cars were commonplace by then. Again the criteria was that it had to be located central to the residential community and provide easy access for motor vehicles. A location was selected between Gila Street and San Pedro Street on 4th Street. Parking was arranged so that cars could pull straight in rather than parking parallel to the curb since every resident in Benson at some time during the day would have to drive to the post office to pick up their mail, unless of course they lived within walking distance.
The reason a new post office was not yet located on a side street was because the side streets were dirt, poorly maintained and during the monsoon were not very accommodating. The building at this new location was constructed of brick since most of the previous buildings located in this area of the city had at one time burned to the ground. 4th street at this juncture was also a major highway (US 80). Eventually 4th street became so busy that it was nearly impossible to back out of the straight-in parking into the mainstream traffic. It wasn’t until 1968 that some relief was seen on 4th street when a traffic light was installed at the corner of Fourth and Patagonia. By this time the secondary streets were either paved or scheduled to be paved so the Post Office was again moved to a side street at the corner of Huachuca and 5th street (currently R&R Pizza). This temporarily solved the traffic problem and the location was still central to the residents of Benson that had to walk to the post office to pick up their mail.
Since the city had elected not to allow an exit 305 from I-10 to intersect US 80 at the present location of the underpass the post office might have stayed on 4th street between Gila Street and San Pedro Street a few more years. An exit 305 from I-10 to US 80 would have greatly reduced the traffic on 4th Street (the thought was that by bypassing 4th street with direct access from I-10 to US 80 would hurt the 4th Street businesses). Door to door delivery or at least delivery to street cluster boxes did not yet exist.
The final move in 1980 to the current location was due to the fact that the 5th and Huachuca street building was condemned, the secondary roads were paved and convenient cluster boxes were being placed throughout the community.
Prior to the establishment of cluster boxes and after the new Post Office was built at the current location on Ocotillo Street an annex was established in the rear of Hamilton’s Drug Store. This was on the corner of San Pedro and 4th streets central to the residents without transportation, because Benson had no public transportation then.
Pictures of Benson’s first 3 Post Offices were provided by the Benson Museum and Historic Society during research for a previous project.
Jimmy will be writing a regular historical column for the Alumni Association newsletter.