The Somerset Post Office building on North Maple Street is cool.
Just before noon Wednesday a large crane parked on the south side of the building lifted two new air-conditioning units atop the structure. The new units replaced units nearly a half century old.
“One of our air-conditioning units went out and the other one was old,” said Gail Reams, Somerset postmaster.
Both of the old units apparently were installed when the post office building was built in 1967-68. Reams said some roof work was done prior to installing the new air-conditioning units, but the interior of the building was not remodeled.
The post office building on North Maple opened June 24, 1968. Some 350 people attended a dedicatory program for the structure on July 4, 1968. The building at the time was called one of the finest facilities in this area.
The vacated old post office building on North Main Street, through the efforts of U.S. Senator John Sherman Cooper, was given to the people of Pulaski County for use as a public library. The building served as a library until the new library on South Main Street was built a few years ago. The old library building now houses Carnegie Community Arts Center.
The existing post office building at the North Maple Street site almost didn’t happen. Just three days before expiration of the option to buy the site, the Post Office Department decided the price was too high.
Maj. Gen. J.J.B. Williams, president and chairman of the board of Citizens National Bank, contributed $10,000 to the federal government and the site was purchased.
Highlight of the Independence Day dedicatory program for the new post office building was a history of postal service in Somerset, related by M.E. Burton, Somerset postmaster from 1933 to 1963.
Burton said postal service was established in Somerset in 1803 with only one outside-the-area delivery each week. The horseback route was from Stanford to Somerset on Friday and back to Stanford on Saturday.
In due time, Burton said, the route was extended to Point Isabel (now Burnside), a main riverboat town on the Cumberland River. A short time later the route was extended to Monticello.
After the Somerset Post Office opened, other horseback routes were established to Crab Orchard, Mt. Vernon, London, Whitley County Courthouse (now Williamsburg), Marsh Creek (now in McCreary County) and Jamestown.
Burton said mail service was expanded and improved during these years, but between 1803 and 1875 mail transportation was exclusively by horseback, horse-drawn carriages or wagons.
A revolution in mail service came in 1875 when Southern Railway System extended its line through Somerset from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, Burton said.
John Tohill was postmaster when the existing post office building was dedicated in 1968.