With its origin in the 1870s, the Grovetown Post Office has a longer history than the city itself.
But soon, the office will be located outside city limits for the first time. The U.S. Postal Service is building a larger facility at the corner of John Deere Parkway and Wrightsboro Road.
During the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, in 1877, the Grovetown Post Office was established at the Georgia Railroad Depot, according to documents gathered by county historian Charles Lord.
At the time, just 50 residents lived within city limits and the post office provided service for 800 to 900 people.
Charles J. Clifford, a founding father of Grovetown and former mayor, became the city's first postmaster and held the position until his death in 1934, according to the records.
"He was one of the oldest postmasters in the U.S. at that time," Lord said.
After Clifford's death, his granddaughter, Josephine Brand, became postmistress from March 1934 to 1943.
The post office in Grovetown has opened up shop in six other locations.
In 1891, the post office moved along with the depot to a new facility that was built in the center of Grovetown. According to a time line hanging in the Grovetown museum, the post office moved in 1942 to the TipTop Shoppe, where the city's gazebo at Friendship Park now stands.
In 1943, it moved to Norvell's old store on West Robinson Avenue, where Regions Bank now stands. The post office moved again in 1945 to a wooden building near what would become Ferguson's Service Station and remained there for nearly 25 years before moving to a small brick building across from Clifford Memorial Presbyterian Church in 1969. Finally, in 1984, the Grovetown Post Office moved to a brick building on Fornum Drive.
Lord said that mail once was delivered via locomotive.
"The mail a lot of times came in by train," he said. "Elmer Paul took the mail from the train to the depot. Everybody remembers him."
For the past 25 years, the Grovetown Post Office has been located at 101 Fornum Drive.
At that time, the facility provided sufficient space and parking but has since become cramped and crowded for both postal workers and customers.
"We're growing about one route per year," Grovetown Postmistress Carmel Bennett said. "Every time you get a new route, you need more space, you get more mail and you get a new vehicle."
Currently, deliveries are carried on three city routes and 11 rural routes, which includes any Grovetown postal address outside city limits.
Residents within city limits receive close to 3,200 deliveries per year, while residents on the rural routes get between 7,000 and 8,000 deliveries a year, Bennett said.
A trailer was added behind the Grovetown facility about five years ago. The trailer houses six routes, but Bennett said more space is needed.
"If we did expand the building, there wouldn't be enough space to accommodate all of the parking that we would need," she said. "After (the U.S. Postal Service) did some studies and realized that Columbia County is growing and so is Grovetown, they realized that a new building was warranted."
She said customers have often commented on the need for a larger building with additional parking.
"The town has grown so much that we need another post office," said Chris Carroll, who has lived near Grovetown for 40 years.
In October, the Postal Service purchased land at 200 John Deere Parkway, just outside Grovetown city limits, for $260,000.
The post office's new address will be 11/2 miles from the current location.
"We tried to locate any new facility that we moved into to be close to where the old one was, because most people are used to going to a certain location," Bennett said.
Employees will have more space in the building, she said, and architectural drawings include a larger lobby and post office box area for patrons.
"The customers will have their own entrance, and the carriers and the truck divers will come in through a different one," she said. "The flow of traffic will be so much better for the customer."
Kim Spignardo, who has lived in Grovetown for two years, said she often walks to the post office to ship packages to her husband, who is in the military.
"I generally walk here because it's good exercise," she said.
Spignardo said she wouldn't walk to the new facility because of heavy traffic in that area.
"I can understand why they're wanting to expand because it's a small office, but I think it's going to be difficult getting in and out," she said. "The city's growing, so I guess that's the way it goes."
The post office will have one lane designated for mail drop-offs and substantially more parking spaces, Bennett said.
Patrons will be able to access the facility from either the Wrightsboro Road or John Deere Parkway entrances.
"It shouldn't inconvenience anybody," Bennett said. "It's pretty close. It's in a great location. It's right on a corner, which is really nice, and it can be accessed from one way or the other."
Construction started in January. The facility is expected to be open by September, City Manager Shirley Beasley said.
In the past 17 years, the four other post offices in the county also have changed locations. In 1991, the Martinez Post Office moved from Washington Road to 125 Commercial Drive. In 1996, the Evans Post Office moved from Old Evans Road to 607 Ronald Reagan Drive. The Harlem Post Office moved in 1999 from North Louisville Road to 335 W. Milledgeville Road. And, in 2000, the Appling Post Office moved a mile from its previous location on Appling-Harlem Highway to another spot on the same road.
"There's a lot of things that having a new facility brings," Bennett said. "We're looking forward to it."
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