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Manteca Post Office gets 1st facelift in 72 years
Crews will be working on the Manteca Post Office building on Maple Avenue for about another two weeks. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The Manteca Post Office on the southwest corner of Center Street and Maple Avenue in downtown Manteca is getting a well-deserved facelift.

The aging tile roof is being replaced, and the outside walls are receiving a fresh coat of paint.

It’s business as usual at the post office while workers with FH Paschen contractors try to finish the job in two weeks, said Postmaster Jennifer Gowans. Work on the project started about two weeks ago.

“We are replacing the roof because the tiles were the originals and they were cracking and we are starting to lose them in the weather. They were starting to fall. You know how tiles crack with age, and we didn’t want anything to fall on someone’s head,” explained Gowans.

For the safety of pedestrians and the workers, “they had to put a scaffolding and fence around (the building) so no one gets injured,” she added.

The decision was made to do some repairs on the outside walls while the roof is being replaced because “some of the fascia board were rotted, and as long as they (workers) were up there,” they might as well work on the “wood trims around the windows and around the edge of the roof because it was rotting,” Gowans said.

Part of that facelift job is repainting all the outside walls.

The work crew is in the process of “doing the final touch-up” and will be finished with the work in about two weeks which is what the contractor has indicated, said Gowan who took over the position of postmaster in Manteca three years ago. She has previously worked in Oakdale and Modesto before being assigned to Manteca.

She was not one hundred percent sure whether the roofing materials that are being replaced were the original tiles that were installed when the building on Center Street was built 72 years ago. However, “they (people in the know) tell me they were the original tiles,” she said.

History of the Manteca Post Office according to Evelyn Prouty

According to the Evelyn Prouty book, “Manteca: Selected chapters from its history,” the post office building on Center and Maple may have been built 72 years ago, but post office service in Manteca started 103 years ago. According to the book, Manteca started out as a rural route of the Lathrop Post office and that’s how residents here received their mail prior to 1908. The only other post office at that time was at Atlanta on Lone Tree and Due roads east of present-day Manteca.

The post office today on Maple Avenue was actually the sixth post office location in Manteca. Prior to that, the post office that served early Manteca residents were located at:

• The Cowell and Wiggin General Store which started service on July 22, 1908.

• The Wiggin Hotel direct across the street from the general store on Yosemite Avenue.

• The southwest corner of the IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows) building which today houses the Manteca Bedquarters on the northwest corner of Yosemite Avenue and North Main Street.

• The back of the old South San Joaquin Bank building on South Maple which, up until a few years ago, was home to the Bank of the West. Bank of the West has since moved to its new quarters at Spreckels Park. Its old building is now home to an Indian store.

• A rented space at the Old City Hall building on Sycamore Avenue. The historic city hall is the brick building across from the Library Park.

The post office at Maple Aveune was the first postal building built in Manteca. It features a Mediterranean-style architectural design and was built at a cost of $80,000 in 1939. Some 1,000 people were present when the new building was dedicated on March 25, 1939.

According to Prouty’s book, the cornerstone that was put in place when the post office was built included the following:

• An autographed photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

• An autographed photo of Postmaster General James A. Farley.

• An autographed photo of Congressman Frank H. Buck.

• A miniature handmade bottle with a handmade label from the Schenley Distilleries Inc. of Manteca with instructions to present it to the president in office when the cornerstone is opened.

• 45 un-cancelled United States commemorative stamps from now retired Manteca businessman John A. Mendosa to be given to his most needy descendant.

• A copy of a 35-year-old edition of the Stockton Independent that was presented by E.E.  Salmon.

• The Manteca Bulletin dated March 23, 1939.

• The complete enrollment of Manteca Grammar schools signed by 420 students.

• The enrollment of the Manteca Luncheon Club.

• A number of financial statements and rosters of various Manteca firms including Bank of Manteca, Manteca Canning Company, Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Co., and South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

•An Air Mail Week film and a number of postal forms used in 1939.

Wilson Park behind the post office was named after former Joseph Wilson who handled all the paperwork needed for the government to acquire the post office building site. This piece of land west of the post office building was made into a memorial park and named in honor of Wilson after he passed away in August of 1939.

In 1966, the building was expanded with the addition of 7,000 square feet plus a 3,000-square-foot basement to accommodate the city’s population growth. While that was being completed, postal service was moved to temporary quarters on North Main Street. The dedication of the newly improve and expanded post office building was held in November of 1967 with 400 people attending the ceremonies.

According to the Manteca history book, the only major crime ever to happen involving the post office occurred on Nov. 3, 1916 at  2:30 a.m. when a nitroglycerine blast blew open the post office safe when it was located in the IOOF building. According to the story, the town’s night watchman, Wright Oliver, fired two shots at the fleeing suspect. No one was ever arrested for that crime. Stolen from the post office were $10 in change plus a few stamps.