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Rock Hill in York County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

U.S. Post Office and Courthouse / Citizen's Building

U.S. Post Office and Courthouse Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Stanley and Terrie Howard, October 12, 2008
1. U.S. Post Office and Courthouse Marker
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
This building was described as "handsome in every respect" when it opened in 1932. It replaced a 1906 post office and housed a new district court and federal offices. It served as a post office until 1986 and provided offices and headquarters for several U.S. Congressmen, including Thomas S. Gettys 1965-75. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, it was renamed in honor of Gettys in 1997.

Citizen's Building
This six-story structure was Rock Hill's first highrise office building. Built in 1924-25, it opened in 1926 with Citizens Bank & Trust on the 1st floor. The bank closed in 1927. Rock Hill National Bank opened on the 1st floor in 1941 and remained here until 1976. WRHI Radio, one of S.C.'s earliest stations, signed-on with studios on the 2nd floor in 1944 and broadcast from here until 1977. Civil Defense used an observation deck on the roof during World War II.
Erected 2007 by Culture & Heritage Museums of York County and The City of Rock Hill. (Marker Number 46-42.)
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This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: CommunicationsIndustry & CommerceWar, World II. In addition, it is included in the Postal Mail and Philately series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1932.
Location. 34° 55.501′ N, 81° 1.555′ W. Marker is in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in York County. Marker is on East Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Rock Hill SC 29730, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 202 East Main Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Village of Rock Hill / City of Rock Hill (within shouting distance of this marker); Andrew Jackson Hotel / Vernon Grant (within shouting distance of this marker); McCrory's Civil Rights Sit-ins / "Friendship Nine" (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Dalton Building (about 400 feet away); First Presbyterian Church / Church Leaders (about 400 feet away); Black Plantation / Hampton Campaign (about 400 feet away); Old Town Fact (about 400 feet away); From Mall To Main (about 500 feet away); Episcopal Church of Our Saviour (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rock Hill.
Also see . . .
Citizen's Building Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Stanley and Terrie Howard, October 12, 2008
2. Citizen's Building Marker

1. United States Post Office and Courthouse. The United States Post Office and Courthouse in Rock Hill, constructed in 1931-32, is significant as an indicator of the population growth and commercial development of the city in the first third of the twentieth century. (Submitted on January 30, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

2. Thomas S. Gettys. Thomas Smithwick Gettys (June 19, 1912 - June 8, 2003) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina. (Submitted on January 30, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

3. WRHI-News Talk 1340 AM & 94.3 FM. The voice of York County. (Submitted on January 30, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.) 

4. Wrhi. WRHI is a news/talk radio station in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It broadcasts on AM frequency 1340 with simulcasts on 94.3 FM and is under ownership of Our Three Sons (OTS) Broadcasting, LLP. (Submitted on January 30, 2010.) 
Additional commentary.
1. U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
The United States Post Office and Courthouse is situated on a rectangular lot at the northeast corner of Caldwell and Main Streets in Rock Hill, York County, South Carolina. The three-story, brick and stone classically-detailed
Citizen's Building image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Stanley and Terrie Howard, October 12, 2008
3. Citizen's Building
building was constructed in 1931-1932. Well-maintained, and with only minor alterations, the Post Office and Courthouse is an important element in the fabric of the city's central business district.

Additional Information
The United States Post Office and Courthouse sits slightly back from the corner of Main and Caldwell Streets, its long axis paralleling Caldwell Street. On the street sides, a narrow strip of lawn with small bushes separates the building from the sidewalk. On the east, or rear elevation, a similar strip of lawn divides it from the driveway that runs along the rear property line. At the north end, a larger area of lawn leads from the street back to the loading dock, with the area in front of the loading dock and at the north end of the property taken up by a driveway and small parking lot.

Rectangular in plan, the three-story building has a low, pink granite podium, a rusticated limestone first floor, and two stories of yellow pressed brick in running bond, topped with a limestone entablature, On the south, east and west elevations, the parapet is composed of regularly-spaced paneled limestone pedestals with turned limestone balusters between them. On the north elevation the parapet is continuous.

Of the two street elevations, the five-bay south (Main Street) elevation is the more ornate, though in terms of the plan it is a
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Stanley and Terrie Howard, October 12, 2008
4. U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
secondary entrance. The central three bays project slightly, defining a frontispiece. A wide, short flight of pink granite steps between the projecting arms of the podium rises to a small platform in front of the central entrance. On either side of the stair are free-standing, ornamented bronze classical light standards. Above the podium is a dado of ashlar limestone, capped by a limestone water table. The rest of the first floor wall is rusticated limestone in courses, at the top of which is a flat limestone belt course with shallow relief carving in a running wave motif, The two outer bay windows on the first floor are larger, with eight over eight metal sash and four-light transoms. The inner bay windows are smaller, six over six windows.

The entrance surround has a double architrave, over which is a flat pediment supported by consoles. Topping this pediment is a row of angular palmettos, with a stylized eagle in the center. The interior, tri-partite shouldered architrave is enriched with bead and reel moldings and a back band of water-leaf. In the frieze over the architrave is a relief bundle of fasces, richly carved. A pair of multi-paned bronze and glass doors, ornamented with bosses and flanked by bronze pilasters, is surmounted by a bronze-screened transom.

On the second and third levels, the outer windows are in two-story bays with a plain metal spandrel
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between them and a plain limestone panel above. All sash on these levels are eight over eight. The central three bays are contained by two engaged Roman Ionic columns in antis between paneled antae. The recessed wall area between the columns is flat limestone ashlar with two-story window bays, the metal spandrel panels between the stories ornamented with wavy fluting and rosettes. Above each window panel is a low-relief limestone panel containing a swag.

The main entablature is a continuous limestone band broken only by the projection of the frontispiece. A tri-partite architrave is surmounted by a plain frieze, inscribed in deeply-cut letters on the frontispiece with "Post Office and Courthouse." The cornice has a dentil course, base moldings and a fascia capped with a cyma recta molding. At the head of the frontispiece the cornice forms a closed pediment with a flat tympanum.

The seven-bay west (Caldwell street) evaluation is detailed on the first level like the south elevation, except that the inner four window bays have paired four over four windows with two-light transoms. At the second and third levels, the inner five bays are slightly recessed. Six-paneled, limestone antae define the window bays, each of which is composed of pairs of six over six sash with enriched metal spandrels between levels. Over the window bays are plain limestone panels. The outer window bays are like those of the south elevation outer bays.

Like the window bays below them, the central section of the entablature and parapet on the west elevation are recessed slightly. The frieze in this area is incised "United States Post Office and Courthouse."

At the opposite side of the building, the east elevation is also recessed in the central five bays on the second and third levels. However, this area is brick, with a single row of windows. The outer one on each end has ten over fifteen metal sash with ten light transoms, while the inner three windows are paired, with six over twelve sash and six light transoms. On the first floor the windows have eight over eight sash with four light transoms, except that the transoms have been replaced with metal louvers in the central four windows.

Least formal of the building's elevations is the north one. Its rusticated first floor runs halfway across, where it is interrupted by a projecting one and a half-story, three-bay, brick-faced pavilion. A plain limestone belt course continues the carved belt course of the main block around this pavilion. Across the end of the pavilion is a metal-canopied loading dock. Under the canopy, the brick wall has been painted. On the upper half story the pavilion has eight over eight sash, with paired six over six sash on the side elevations. The upper two stories of the north elevation have five evenly-spaced bays of eight over eight sash, except that there is a small four over four window on each level. A pair of small metal ducts, apparently added later, run from above the third floor down the northeast corner.

At the northeast corner of the roof, visible from the street, is a squat, square chimney of brick with limestone string courses. The sides of the chimney have louvered metal vents and there is a circular sheet metal cap on the top.

The principal interior space on the first floor is an L-shaped lobby that runs across the Caldwell street side and halfway down the Main Street side. This lobby, entered through a bronze airlock on the Caldwell Street side, contains the postal boxes, service windows, and stair to the second level. Throughout the lobby (and in corridors throughout the building), the floors are finished in terrazzo with marble borders, and there is a pink marble wainscot with red marble base. Marble is also used for classical door surrounds at the south end of the lobby. The walls are finished in smooth plaster with molded panels, and in the Caldwell Street section of the lobby, a plaster entablature delineates the upper, or transom area of the wall. Mahogany-finished wood is employed in the letter box bays and service window bays.

Most dramatic of the elements of the front lobby is the ceiling. Articulated into five bays by doubled beams supported on flat classical brackets, it is covered with embellished plaster coffers framed by courses of enriched moldings, Fluorescent lighting strips have been hung from the ceiling in recent years. At the south, or Main Street end, the lobby is less opulently finished and has simple, paneled ceilings. The main decorative element in this area is the open stair, which rises in the southwest corner. Curving sinuously to the second floor, it has a bronze string and railings and pink marble steps.

Located at the southeast corner of the building, the Postmaster's suite consists of two rooms and a private toilet. The outer room has a paneled, mahogany-finished wainscot and crown mold, and the inner room contains a large wall safe.
The work rooms of the post office have a much more utilitarian finish than the rest of the building; high, tongue and groove wainscot and plain p1aster walls.

A flight of stairs at the north end of the room leads up to a lounge and toilets, and there is an enclosed postal inspector's gallery that runs the length of the room.

Much of the second floor is taken up by the District Courtroom, centered at the rear of the building. Separated from it by a corridor running the length of the floor are suites of offices with plaster walls, maple, floors and mahogany-finished door and window surrounds, baseboards and chair rails. At the north end of the hall are the Judge's Chambers, comprised of two large, connected rooms, one of which enters directly into the courtroom, and the judge's marble-wainscoted toilet. The judge's office has mahogany-finished paneled wood wainscot and plaster crown molding.

The courtroom itself is rectangular. Red gun paneling with a mahogany finish covers the lower three-quarters of the walls. The upper quarter is finished with a veneer of rusticated ashlar stone, now painted.

The ceiling is divided into five bays by large plaster beams supported by foliate consoles. Framing the flat area of the ceiling bays are richly embellished courses of plaster moldings. Each bay is divided into 390 square panels divided by foliate strips of fasces and each panel is ornamented with relief shells and foliage. At either end of every bay, the central panel has been replaced by a ceiling register. Strips of fluorescent lighting have also been mounted across the ceiling.

Two sets of double doors, covered on the inside with leather, open off the hall on one long wall. Above the doors are low-relief cartouches and swags. The other long wall contains five bays of windows. At one end of the courtroom is spectator seating--three rows of moveable wooden benches which appear to be of later vintage than the courtroom. There are paneled doors in the rear wall leading to the witness and U.S. Marshall's rooms. A low, paneled partition with swinging doors sets apart the front two-thirds of the courtroom which contain the raised jury box at one side, the attorney's podium, the Clerk and Recorder's box, the witness stand and the judge's bench, all paneled in red gum with mahogany finish. Affixed to the counter at either end of the judge's bench is a bronze lamp with opalescent glass shade.

Behind the judge's bench is a classical frontispiece, a closed pediment and entablature supported by composite pilasters and engaged to columns in mahogany.

In the tympanum of the pediment is the inscription "Domina Justitia Qui Pro Sequitor." The wall surface directly behind the bench is paneled with pink marble in an enriched bronze frame.

Most of the third floor is taken up by the upper area of the courtroom, but a corridor running the length of the building gives access to suites of offices along the Caldwell Street side. These offices are simply-finished with plaster walls, maple floors and mahogany-finished wood trim.

The United States Post Office and Courthouse in Rock Hill, constructed in 1931-1932, is significant as an indicator of the population growth and commercial development of the city in the first third of the twentieth century. Its erection also reflects the rapid growth in Federal construction following the Public Buildings Act of 1926. The Post Office and Courthouse's carefully composed classical exterior and richly-ornamented lobby and courtroom, designed by the Supervising Architect's Office of the Treasury Department, are distinctly superior to other buildings constructed in the area during the period.

Additional Information
Rock Hill's first post office was opened in 1852, the year the town was established. The location of the post office moved periodically over the next fifty years, generally occupying parts of other buildings. However, by 1904 postal receipts had grown to $20,000, spurring erection of the city's first Federal Building, which opened in 1906. Its site, purchased for $5,500, was at the edge of the central business district in a largely undeveloped area. One story tall, the building was constructed of red brick over a granite base, and had limestone and terra-cotta trim. Although there were larger commercial buildings in downtown, its Classical Revival design was in advance of anything in the city.

Construction of this new Federal building was symbolic of the growth of Rock Hill in the last quarter of the nineteenth century; from a crossroads to one of the fastest-developing cities in the South Carolina Piedmont. Incorporated in 1870 with 250 persons, by 1891 the population had increased to nearly 4,000. The first of a number of textile mills opened in 1880. Rock Hill was also home to the Rock Hill Buggy Company, later Anderson Motor Company, and to Winthrop Normal and Industrial College. Located directly on a major line of the Southern Railroad, the city was a natural center for the surrounding area.

This pattern of growth continued in the first third of the twentieth century. By 1930, the population had risen to 11,300, with 6,000 more people in the adjoining suburbs. Rock Hill was the largest city in York County, as well as in the adjacent three South Carolina counties. In addition to the retail business that came from the surrounding farming areas, cheap hydroelectric power helped lure industry such as the city's eight cotton mills, two yarn mills and hosiery mill, as well as one of the South's largest printing and finishing companies. (Now) Winthrop College's student population had risen to 1,800.

As early as the mid-19201s, the need for a larger Federal building was perceived in Rock Hill. Congressman William F. Stevenson of Cheraw introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1925 which would have authorized the acquisition of a new Federal Building on a new site in Rock Hill. In the joint survey of public building needs carried out by the Post Office and Treasury Departments following passage of the Public Buildings Act of 1926, Rock Hill was one of two South Carolina cities where the need for a new Federal building was deemed urgent. The report estimated that an additional 2,240 square feet of post office space was required, and it noted that, "Although Federal courts are authorized to be held at Rock Hill, no Federal space is available, which fact makes it necessary for the courts to rent quarters."

Under the series of public building funding authorizations from 1926 to 1931, $300,000 was allocated for a new Federal building in Rock Hill. Plans were prepared by the Supervising Architect's Office in the Department of the Treasury under Acting Supervising Architect James A. Wetmore. Bids for the new Federal building were opened on June 3, 1931. Of the 21 bidders on the general contract, none was from South Carolina. The low bid was submitted by the Batson-Cook Company of West Point, Georgia, at $175,773. Batson-Cook had carried out other Federal projects, and its superintendent for the Rock Hill work, S. L. Hodge, arrived directly from the completion of a new quarantine station in New Orleans. Batson-Cook's contract was for erection of the building itself. Plumbing and heating were installed separately by Waldrop Heating and Plumbing Company of Rock Hill, with still another contractor installing the elevator.

Additional land needed for the new building was acquired by condemnation in 1929 from the owners who had supplied the original lot. Its cost was $21,300, approximately four times the price of the initial site.

The first order of business in constructing the new post office was to remove the existing one. Only twenty-five years old, it was still one of the most substantial buildings in the city. The Federal government sold the old post office to the City of Rock Hill for a nominal sum, and it was placed on rollers and moved to the corner of Oakland Avenue and St. John's Court, where it was refurbished as the new public library. The building survives in good condition, but is no longer used for public purposes.

Excavation for the foundations began on July 8, 1931. By April of 12, most of the exterior was complete and plastering of the interior had begun. It was anticipated that the building would be open well within the fourteen-month contract period. However, problems arose over the design of the ceiling in the lobby and over acoustical improvements proposed for the courtroom. The latter involved the use of a porous, "acoustical" stone facing for the upper part of the courtroom wall. Although the Supervising Architect's Office approved these changes in August, the models for the ceiling design in the courtroom had to be sent back to Washington for reworking.

At the end of November, the building was still not complete--the courtroom was unfinished, the stairway railing was not installed, the boiler was being altered, and the Postmaster's office furniture had not arrived. Nevertheless, the lease on the post office's temporary quarters was expiring, so the post office moved in over the weekend, opening for business on Monday, November 28, 1932.

The Rock Hill Evening Herald described the new building as "...handsome in every respect." Its first floor contained offices for the Postmaster and Assistant Postmaster, and the work room and service windows. In the basement were storage rooms and offices for the county farm agent and home demonstration agent. On the second floor were located the Federal courtroom, offices of Judge J. Lyles Glenn, offices of the Clerk of Court and other Federal officers' quarters. Offices of the District Attorney, Internal Revenue Officer, Deputy Marshal, and rooms for the grand jury and witnesses were located on the third floor.

In 1932, the new Federal building was the most accomplished piece of architecture in the city. Two other, large commercial buildings put up during the 1920s, the brick and limestone Andrew Jackson Hotel, and the brick and terra-cotta Citizens Bank Building, could neither match it for sophistication of design nor consistent use of high-quality materials.

The first postmaster in the new building was A.R. Barrett, whose term expired with the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. A Dr. Williams acted as temporary postmaster for several months before being replaced by Col. L.C. McFadden in 1933. McFadden's tenure extended until 1952, when he was replaced by Tom Gettys. Gettys later represented Rock Hill in the United States House of Representatives. John J. Wise became postmaster in 1954, serving until 1971, when he was succeeded by J.W. Roof.

As had happened with the previous post office, the growth of postal business gradually exceeded the capacity of the existing facility. Substations and a parcel post processing plant were opened, but the change from foot to vehicle delivery overwhelmed the small parking area of the Caldwell Street site. With the Baptist Church flanking the building on its two rear sides, there was no room for expansion. A much larger, new post office was construed in an urban renewal area at the edge of downtown, opening September 7, 1971.

On September 5, 1986, the City of Rock Hill purchased the building from the United States Postal Service for $280,000. Currently, the building's occupants include the local congressman's office, the York County Tourism and Convention Bureau, and the Rock Hill Arts Council. (Source: National Register nomination form.)
    — Submitted January 30, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

2. Thomas Smithwick Gettys (1912-2003)
Thomas Smithwick Gettys, a Representative from South Carolina; born in Rock Hill, York County, S.C. June 19, 1912; educated in the Rock Hill public schools; attended Clemson College; Erskine College, A.B., 1933; graduate work at Duke University and Winthrop College; United States Navy, 1942-1946; teacher; school administrator, Central School, 1935-1941; staff for United States Representative James P. Richards, 1942-1951; postmaster, Rock Hill, S.C., 1951-1954; lawyer, private practice; past member and chairman of the board of trustees of Rock Hill School District Three, 1953-1960; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-eighth and to the Eighty-ninth Congress by special election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Representative Robert W. Hemphill, and reelected to the four succeeding Congresses (November 3, 1964-December 31, 1974); resigned on December 31, 1974; was not a candidate for reelection to the Ninety-fourth Congress in 1974; died on June 8, 2003, in Rock Hill, S.C.; interment in Neely’s Creek Associate Reformed Church Cemetery, Rock Hill, S.C. (Source: Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.)
    — Submitted January 30, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.

3. Thomas Smithwick Gettys Obituary
The Rock Hill Herald
June 10, 2003

ROCK HILL -- Mr. Thomas Smithwick Gettys, 90, of 1330 India Hook Road died Sunday, June 8, 2003, at home.

The funeral will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, with the Revs. Barry Dagenhart and Bob Robinson officiating. Burial will be at Neely's Creek Associate Reformed Church cemetery.

A native of Rock Hill, Mr. Gettys was a son of the late John Ebenezer Gettys and Maud Martin Gettys. He attended Rock Hill schools and received an associate business degree from Erskine College. He pursued his graduate studies at Duke University and Win-throp College. He received his honorary doctorate of law, L.L. D. at Erskine College. He practiced law in Rock Hill. He was a teacher, coach and principal in the Rock Hill schools and was secretary to 5th District Congressman James P. Richards. He was a Rock Hill postmaster and was admitted to the S.C. Bar. He was a member of the York County and American Bar Associations. He was U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, serving as lieutenant commander in the Pacific. He was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, B.P.O.E. He was a member of First Associate Reformed Presbyter-ian Church. He was a member and past president of the Rock Hill Rotary Club and received the Paul Harris Fellow. He was a member and past president of YMCA board and was past chairman of the United Fund Campaign. He was past member and chairman of the Rock Hill School Board and was on the board of directors of Rock Hill National Bank. He was elected to fill a vacancy in the 88th Congress and was re-elected to 89th, 90th, 91st, 92nd and 93rd Congress.

Surviving are his wife, Mary Phillips White Gettys; two daughters, Julia Martin Gettys Burchett of Durham, N.C., and Sara Elizabeth Gettys Pierce of Duxbury, Mass.; his sister, Sara Roddey Gettys of Rock Hill; and six grandchildren.

The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. today at his sister's home, 604 E. Main St.

Memorials may be made to First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 201 E. White St., Rock Hill, SC 29730 or to a charity of one's choice.

Greene Funeral Home Northwest Chapel is in charge.
    — Submitted January 30, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 15, 2019. It was originally submitted on March 4, 2009, by Stanley and Terrie Howard of Greer, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 2,318 times since then and 40 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on March 4, 2009, by Stanley and Terrie Howard of Greer, South Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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May. 29, 2023