The Bisbee Post office has been a meeting place on Main Street for more than 100 years. Through remodeling, demolition, reconstruction and floods, it has served as a de facto town square.
It first was located in a two-story library building about 25 yards east of the location in this photograph. The building was moved by the Copper Queen Mining Company to the present location in 1892 and was renovated. A brick façade, bay windows and porches on two sides were added.
Inside, the Post Office served as a meeting room for fraternal and church groups; outside on the porch chairs and railings, it was a hangout for men who talked and spit tobacco juice onto the dusty street.
In 1904, the Post Office was moved to Brewery Gulch. However, that crowded and rowdy section of town made securing the mail difficult, and when the Copper Queen Company designed a new library building, citizens petitioned the governor to locate the Post Office on the ground floor.
In 1906, the Post Office moved temporarily to the Central School, while a permanent library building was completed. The library/post office building pictured here opened its doors in April 1907.
A year later, the city had its first go around with the Post Office over the issue of home delivery mail. The April 3, 1908, issue of the Bisbee Review reported: “Several Post Office inspectors have visited Bisbee to report on free (home) delivery, all of which have been adverse. The rules of the Post Office Department require all houses to be numbered in cities and towns where free delivery is established. Bisbee’s peculiar location according to these inspectors’ opinions precludes the possibility of [the city’s] ever securing free delivery.”
The lack of home delivery gave Bisbee another distinction: it had the largest number of rented boxes in any United States Post Office – 3,200 in 1908.
The new combined post office/library building was as popular as ever when it opened. Men still hung out on the railings and porches, and not just to discuss business and politics.
Males outnumbered females about four to one in Bisbee, and most of the postal clerks were women. That was a huge attraction for Bisbee’s male population, and the Post Office became one of the prime courting spots in town.
In June 1913, the Bisbee Review reported; “It is rumored at the Post Office that another one of the young ladies there will soon leave and that a wedding announcement will be issued at the same time. If this rumor is correct, the ‘Bisbee Matrimonial Bureau’ as the Post Office is generally known, will have a record 42 marriages since postmaster Cassidy took office.
“The department at Washington,” said Mr. Cassidy yesterday, “is kept busy announcing special examinations for the Bisbee office. Just as soon as a clerk has learned her duties and everything is running smoothly, along comes a wedding announcement. Of the 42 Post Office marriages to date, the couples are scattered all over the country, with the larger number on the coast. I cannot confirm or deny this latest rumor, but the past record shows that it is very probably true.”
In September, the Review again reported: “During the past three months, four of the clerks in the Post Office have been married and during the last four years nearly 50 clerks of the Post office have married. It is greatly doubted if there is another Post office in the United States that can boast of such a record.”
Bisbee’s Post Office is no longer known as the “Matrimonial Bureau,’ but there still is no home delivery. It remains a place where locals pick up their mail and chat with friends and neighbors.
This Times Past article was originally published on August 24, 2001.
Photos courtesy Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum; research by Tom Vaughan.
©Arizona Capitol Times.