Repairs to historic post office

Workers have recently completed repairs to the General Post Office, one of downtown George Town’s historic buildings. 

The post office was closed Friday and Saturday, 26 and 27 October as well as 2 and 3 November, and again on 16 November while workers addressed cracks in one of the walls of the building and replaced roof timbers that were rotting due to termites. 

Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow said the nature of the project necessitated that customers and staff not be in the building while work was going on. 

“It is an historic building. We are trying to keep it functional, and it was due for a little maintenance work,” she said. 

Opening in 1939, the General Post Office is one of four signature buildings constructed by Captain Rayal Bodden, who also built the George Town Town Hall, the public library and Elmslie Memorial Church.  

Located at the intersection of Edward Street and Cardinall Avenue, the General Post Office was constructed simultaneously with the public library. 

The money to build the General Post Office and public library, as well as a long-vanished marketplace on Cardinall Avenue, assembly halls and schools, was obtained through a £6,500 loan approved by the Jamaican government in July 1938, according to the 1938 “Annual Report on the Social and Economic Progress of the People of the Cayman Islands”. 

Of that, the General Post Office cost about £2,000 to build. An assembly hall and school in West Bay cost £1,500. The public library cost £1,200. The market place cost £400. Other assembly halls and schools cost £1,200 together. The remaining £200 was earmarked for road improvements. 

According to the 1938 report, held by the Cayman Islands National Archive, “The project is the largest ever undertaken in the dependency.” 

Materials used for the buildings included cement blocks, asbestos roofing and steel windows. The vast majority of the materials were sourced from the United Kingdom, and some from Jamaica. Ninety per cent of the lumber was from British Columbia. 

In addition to the post office, the building originally contained the Treasury, Government Savings Bank and Customs House. In 1973, the post office took over the entire space and remodelled the interior of the building, according to “A History of the Cayman Islands Post Offices,” by Ivan Burges. 

In 1987, the government commissioned plans to build a new post office building on the old public library site, with intentions to start construction in 1988, according to Mr. Burges. In 1994, the General Post Office underwent major renovations. 

The Cardinall Avenue marketplace was renovated several times beginning about 1970, until little or no original materials remained. Earlier this year, government leased that property to developers Gene Thompson and Harry Chandhi. The building was rased in August, and the developers’ plans call for a new two-storey retail building to be constructed. 

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