Fernandina Beach’s historic post office is being honored by the State of Florida for recent renovations. The more than century-old building got about $1.2 million worth of work done over the course of a year.
The post office is on Centre Street.
“Centre Street is our Main Street. It’s our main artery of our commercial district in the downtown,” said Jeff Kurtz, executive director of Fernandina Beach Main Street, a program aimed at creating and promoting a more vibrant downtown.
Kurtz calls the post office one of the “crown jewels” of the area. It’s a grand building with ornate terra-cotta details and big arches over its front doors. Over its hundred years, it’s also served as a customs office and federal courthouse. Kurtz nominated it for the award from the Florida State Department.
“It’s not one of those buildings that people will go in and buy a T-shirt in to add to the economic vitality, but it is a place that when you put it in the context of this downtown. it’s one of the big landmarks that people will remember,” he said.
Now it’s moisture-sealed, has a new air-conditioning unit and is close to its original look from a century ago, said Bill Bishop, vice president of the Akel, Logan and Shafer architecture firm, which completed the project.
“We did a lot of terra-cotta work, which was decaying and cracking. We replaced all that,” Bishop said.
He said his company was able to find large-scale original diagrams of the exterior details to ensure the pieces were recreated accurately.
That all led the Florida State Department this month to award the project what’s called a Main Street award for rehabilitation.
Earlier this summer, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) lamented the House’s unwillingness to fund the restoration after the Senate had approved funding.
“Finally, we kicked the Post Office Department in the shins enough that they went in there and they have done a beautiful rehab job,” Nelson said.
Now he sees a different future for the building: He wants the Postal Service to sell or give it to the city of Fernandina Beach.
“They can use it as their City Hall, and the old federal court room, that’s a perfect place for the meeting for the City Council,” Nelson said.
However a U.S. Post Office spokeswoman said it’s not planning to sell the building at this time.