Finally, Free Mail Delivery!

We might not always like what comes in the mailbox, but at least it’s free and we don’t have to go far to get it.  In 1886, Battle Creek was leaping forward.  Up until then, you had to make your way downtown, on foot or on horseback,  to send mail or pick up your mail from a rented Post Office Box.

In those early days, the post office was on Main Street, (now known as Michigan Avenue), near where the Chamber of Commerce is housed now in Riverwalk Center.

The plan was to hire mail carriers to distribute the mail, but the first task was to re-number all of the houses in town.   Up until 1886, people just picked a number.   Maybe it was their lucky number or somebody’s birthday.   Once the new house numbers were assigned, Mayor Gage suggested that residents go down to the hardware store and buy some numbers to place above the main entrance of the home.  He said the numbers would be a lot cheaper than the rental fees at the post office.

From the Battle Creek Daily Moon, August 5, 1886

“Postmaster Fletcher received 46 iron boxes which are to be fastened up at various places about the city for the public to deposit their mail in, and from which it will be gathered twice each day.  He also received four large bags for the carriers to wear in the collecting and delivering of mail.  The bags are part leather and part waterproof cloth.

Mr. Seaton, the gentleman who inaugurated the free mail delivery at Jackson, is expected here tomorrow to assist in locating the boxes about the city, and also lay off the city into proper routes.

The four men employed by the city to number the houses began their work and will tack up cards with the correct official number of each house, which will serve as a guide to the letter carriers until the property owners can get good, durable numbers to put up in their places, which all should do, as it will not cost one half as much as the box rent at the post office besides the convenience of having your mail left at your door.   It is expected that the system will be in readiness to start up promptly by September 1st. “

Battle Creek c1910 Willard Library
Battle Creek c1910 Willard Library

New Post Office Opens in 1907

It would be 20 more years before Battle Creek’s new post office was built.   By that time, there were 19 clerks, 21 mail carriers, 11 rural free delivery carriers.

A 1930 addition doubled the size of the building. It was abandoned in 1968 when the new post office was built on McCamly Street.   The revered building, designed by Albert Kahn, cost $100,000 to construct.   It became the Hall of Justice, and now Commerce Pointe with various offices including the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Old Battle Creek Post Office-Willard Library
Old Battle Creek Post Office-Willard Library

As for the original boxes, we're not sure what they looked like.  We did get a not from a listener who remembered they were a drab green in the 40's and 50's, and then changed to red, white and blue in 1955 and then all blue in 1973.

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