History of the Garden Home Post Office
By Elaine Shreve
[2019 Update: The historic Post Office safe from the 1968-1992 location was recently found and relocated to the Garden Home Growlers inside the Garden Home Market Place.]
Brief history of the Garden Home Post Office
According to the book, Oregon Post Offices, 1847-19821, the Garden Home Post Office was first established March 6, 1882. It was then discontinued or had a change of designation on January 31, 1904. It was then reestablished Oct. 26, 1912. On February 28, 1954 the post office had a change of designation to be the Garden Home Classified Branch. The designation changed again on March 31, 1979 to be Garden Home Contract Station of Portland. This information is contained in hundreds of notations regarding post offices throughout the state. It is complicated by several seemingly wrong typos such as an entry as “Garrlen Home” preceded by “arden Home.” Thanks to Chris Gilson for providing this resource. Oregon Geographic Names by Lewis McArthur states that the Garden Home Post Office was established in 1882.
Mr. Lumen Nichols was the first Garden Home Postmaster (Mapes, Garden Home – the way it was) “at the Garden Home intersection” in the late 1880s. The first Post Office was located in a small wooden building that served as the Post Office and Store owned and run by the Nichols. Later in the early 1900s the Post Office moved up to Robert and Margie Smith’s Red & White store, sometimes called the Red Store. This store was on Garden Home Road across from the current Old Market Pub.
In 1935, Margaret Scherner Smith moved to Garden Home to join her mother, Maria Scherner, and began work part-time at the Red Store. Soon she became the Postmistress. Margaret’s son Don Smith grew up in Garden Home and went on to become a PGA official.
When the Red store closed in the 1930s, the Post Office was moved to the White Store (later called the Upchurch store), the large store built by Chris Jager on the southeast corner of the intersection. Later the Post Office moved into the front of Gust Johnson’s service station on the southwest corner of the intersection. (Gust Johnson’s daughter, Dorothy Johnson, says his name was Gust although he was commonly referred to as Gus.)
When the Lamb’s Thriftway complex was built in 1957, the Post Office moved into the back of Irv Huppen’s Pharmacy which was located in the east end of the first mall on this site. At that time, Elizabeth Rains became the Postmistress from 1968 until 1992. This small area featured the beautiful ornate brass wall of postal boxes and the window for the postmistress. Old-timers still remember their postal box number. Upon her retirement, her daughter Mary Rogers took over from 1992 until 1996. See Colin Lamb on the website.
When the new Thriftway was expanded in 1995, the post office became part of the Lamb’s Thriftway business (now called the Garden Home Market Place). Garden Home’s last postmistress was Lana Smith who served for 23 years, from 1997 to the closing of the post office in 2019.
Mail used to be delivered to Garden Home, Oregon but today the address is Portland, OR 97223.
1 Oregon Post Offices, 1847-1982. Second, Revised Edition, 1982 and 1985. By Richard W. Helbock, Ph.D. published by Raven Press, P.O. Box 135, Lake Oswego, OR 97034. The author notes that there are “many instances, particularly in the 19th century, where official dates as recorded in Washington, D.C., do not correspond to actual dates of operation. Unfortunately, there is no way known to obtain the actual dates of operation in most cases.”
National Archive documents about the Garden Home Post Office
One of our readers, Chris Gilson, sent us a link to the National Archives online portal for the Garden Home Post Office (roll 496, images 643-652) from Record Group 28: Records of the Post Office Department. Thank you, Chris!
This collection of ten documents concern the founding and location characteristics of the Garden Home Post Office from 1882 to 1940.
The stamp in the upper right corner is dated Feb 25, 1882. Because this stamp appears on the application for a new post office, this is one possible date for the founding of Garden Home. Other sources list other dates in 1882 or 1881 for the “founding” of Garden Home.
The signature of the applicant appears to be “Luman H. Nichols”. Other sources cite his name as Lumen H. Nichols.
T. A. Wood was a well-known local resident. It appears in the application that the name Tawood was considered for the initial name of the post office.
We suspect that the dark squares represent mailing addresses (buildings) in early 1882.
The text of the letter reads (un-edited):
Garden Home 9/3:98
To the Topographer’s Office
Post Office Department
I write say I have dun the best I can I tried to do the job my self but I could not so I sent the papers to the County Savor and he mad a sketch of it and I paid for it and that is all right I think it is better than I could do hopefully [unsure on that word] all will be right
I remain yours truly
L H Nichols PM
It’s interesting to note that the nearest railway station is listed as 8 miles away, suggesting the Garden Home railway junction was out of service by 1940.
A recollection by Ward Nelson, 2019
We always got our mail at the Garden Home post office, first when it was next to Throckmorton’s and then when it moved across the street to the new Garden Home Enterprises. Our address was Box 37, Garden Home, Oregon. I always went over to get the mail after school and even into high school, so I knew Margaret Smith well, and we always visited a little when I picked up the mail. She knew everyone’s post office box by heart, so you didn’t even have to give her your number. I recall her being upset when the government raised the rates on the post office boxes by quite a bit, as I recall. It seems to me that when the post office was next to Throckmorton’s that there was a woman by the name of Marjorie Kron who ran it before Margaret Smith.
We lived on 76th Street [Occidental Avenue] but always got our mail at the post office.
A Memoir from our Postmistress, Lana Smith
You’ve probably all met Lana who has been our Postmistress for some 23 years at the (now) Garden Home Market Place at the intersection (formerly the Lamb’s Thriftway). We asked her to write about her time at the Post Office. We are lucky to have this Post Office which was first officially established in Garden Home in 1882. Lana wrote this on the occasion of our April 18 history event at the Garden Home Growlers where the historic old safe from the Garden Home Post Office is installed.
In my 23 years at the Garden Home Post Office, there is one incident that I recall. It would have changed the history of having a Post Office in Garden Home.
In the early part of the 2000’s, Bob Lamb decided not to renew the contract with the Post Office. Mary Rogers and I tried to tell him that it was a bad idea, but a sign went up outside the Post Office window, announcing that it would be closed in 2 weeks. The (not so nice) calls and emails started flooding into the Main Post Office and to Bob Lamb. It got to the point that neither of them wanted to answer the phone or check their emails.
Within a week or so the contract was renewed and the closing sign came down as fast as it went up. We are here because of our faithful customers who fought City Hall and won, so to speak.
I am blessed to work at a job where I am told how much I am appreciated every day.
Garden Home Post Office April 2019
The Post Office Boxes
These two small postal box doors and about twenty other ornate doors provided the front bank of beautiful brass postal boxes for those persons getting their mail at the post office in the 1960s-1995 at Irv Huppen’s Pharmacy in the original Lamb’s Thriftway strip mall. The ornate brass lockboxes featured a flying eagle sunburst motif. The eagle has long been the symbol of the US Postal Service.
These small postal box doors were a gift from Elizabeth Ann Harding, who grew up in Garden Home and lived next door to Irv Huppen, the pharmacist.
[Editor’s note: Recommended for fascinating history: How the Post Office Created America by Winifred Gallagher, Penguin Press, New York, 2016.]
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