May is Historic Preservation month! In recognition of thatthe Museum at the Bighorns will be publishing a blog entry each week on ahistoric building in Sheridan. Keep your eyes peeled for these posts, so youcan learn more stories of Sheridan!
Sheridan’s Federal Building, now called the Old Post Office building, hails from an era when public buildings were a source of great public pride. Public buildings were seen as grand monuments. As the court house and post office the Federal Building held great importance to the county. The three story sandstone building still makes a statement today as you walk down Loucks or Gould Streets.
Construction of the Federal Building in Sheridan began in late 1908, and was set to open in January of 1910. The original plan was that the post office and federal court rooms were to be housed in the building, but more agencies kept applying for space, leading to delays. They had to redesign the interior plans to make room. According to the Sheridan Daily Enterprise on December 14, 1909 they also had trouble getting the special plaster molding needed for the finish work. By the time the building construction wrapped up the project cost around $200,000. More funds had to be procured to complete the project, but it wasn’t considered over budget when construction finished. When the building opened in 1910 it housed the post office, U.S. District Attorney’s Office, District Court, U.S. Marshalls, Red Cross, the Forest Service, and the U.S. Civil Service Exam Board.
The post office had out grown its space at 44 N. MainStreet. C.W. Garbutt, the Postmaster of Sheridan, was eager to move in the newbuilding as soon as possible. He asked for permission to start planning a “house warming” party for the new post office before construction was complete. He didn’t get to take custody of the building until May 1, 1910, four months behind schedule.
The Federal Building opened for business on May 16, 1910. The Daily Enterprise newspaper exclaimed that the building had “fine corridors” and was “semi-fireproof”. The steel beams, stone floors, and stone exterior helped with the sturdy and fire resistant nature of the building. The only wood in the building was in the trim of the rooms. The stairs were built to last, made of steel and marble. The builders were so focused on fire-proofing the building that they installed a wiring system approved by the Underwriters’ Association of the United States, meaning insurance companies thought the system wouldn't catch fire as easily as others. The third floor still wasn’t quite finished when the building opened, but the contractor was close.
The post office stayed there for fifty years, until it moved across the street to its current facility in 1960. The Federal Building slowly emptied and eventually closed. Yet this was not the end of this magnificent building. Today, businesses ranging from massage therapists to accountants rent space inside. The interior of the building is still in great shape owing in large part to the quality of materials used during the original construction.
Historic buildings often have a purpose after their original tenants move out. You find repurposed buildings all over the country that are still as vibrant and beautiful as they were 100 years ago. Instead of tearing it down this well build structure has new life with new tenants. This Historic Preservation Month keep an eye out for the historic buildings in your town. What are they used for today versus what they were originally intended for? Can you imagine what they could be in the future?