Freehold Post Office
The history of the post office in Freehold dates back to January 1795, when the village was named Monmouth Courthouse. The name was officially changed to Freehold on January 1, 1801.
The first postmaster was Samuel McKinstry who took office January 1, 1795, serving only three months. He was succeeded by Samuel McConkey on April 1 of the same year.
There are no records of post office buildings previous to 1861, when, under Joseph H. Rosell, the post office was located in the Rosell building, then known as the Deedmeyer & Johnson cigar store. Since then the store, at 4 East Main Street, has been known as the Patten Cigar Store, then Barkalow & Litchfield, and Esquire News & Smoke Shop, as it remains today.
In 1873, under Postmaster Charles T. Fleming, the office was located on the north side of West Main Street, near the former Newberry 5&10, now Harris Pharmacy, where a satellite of the main office was once located.
In 1874, the post office was moved to the store known as S. Rosegarden's at 7 and 9 South Street and in 1876, to the site of a newly constructed post office building on Court Street.
That facility was constructed by Joseph T. Laird on property purchased from Dr. John P. Conover. Lumber from an old barn on the rear of the property was used in the construction.
Col. Edwin F. Applegate was then postmaster and the Monmouth Inquirer, published by a descen- dant of Maxcy Applegate occupied quarters in the rear of the building. This structure was replaced in the summer of 1901 by another which was succeeded by still another near the same location in 1925 before moving to a new facility at 50 East Main Street in 1935.
The cornerstone for this building was set in 1934 at a time when U.S. Postmaster General James A. Farley was supervising similarly styled post offices being built all over the country under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project.
During the 1950s, due to accelerated growth in the area, conditions in the Freehold Post Office became intolerably crowded and more up-to-date facilities were started in 1957, resulting in a sizeable extension to the building with complete modernization by 1962.
The Freehold facility once served a large portion of what is known today as Western Monmouth County, but it cut back as post offices were established in outlying municipalities.
When Walter S. Briggs retired in 1961 after 42 years, he marveled at the postal service's growth during his tenure. He was employed first as a temporary clerk for four months, then became a regular substitute. After two years he was appointed to the position of clerk until 1949 when he was named superintendent of mails.
When Briggs started in 1919, there were three carriers for the whole town and the mailmen did not make deliveries in the Texas and Peach Orchard sections. Many of the town's streets were not built-up.
The same year, there were six rural routes laid out for horse and wagon. The area for mail delivery decreased when new post offices were established in Colts Neck and Marlboro.
Prior to rural delivery by the Freehold Post Office, three post offices operated in sections of what is now Freehold Township. They were housed in parts of other businesses: in West Freehold, established June 19, 1868, at the Joseph Leander Jewell Wheelwright Shop; on October 13, 1874, at what became the Herman Shteir Country Store, Smithburg; and on March 1, 1892, at the Horatio Clayton country store, known as Clayton's Corner, at Elton.
Mail would be picked up at the Freehold facility or railroad station and brought to the local stores and folks living in the vicinity would have to pick up their mail there. When these post offices were closed is not known, probably when the rural routes were established.
Another change that Briggs noted in 1961 was the increased use of trucks for mail delivery. Formerly, all mail was dispatched to trains and railway post offices. Except for the long run from New York to Chicago, Pittsburgh, and points west, trains were rapidly losing out to automotive transportation in the mail delivery.
In June 1991, the U.S. Postal Service closed the doors of the downtown post office at 50 East Main Street and moved to its new headquarters, a $4.5 million building, about two miles west at 200 Village Center Drive, off Route 537 in Freehold Township, and opened the satellite office in the Harris Pharmacy, which closed in 1997 when the pharmacy was sold. In 1997, the USPS contracted with the new owners of the former Murray's Office Supply building on Main Street to operate a postal unit in their building. This contract office closed in 2002 because the owner "could no longer afford to keep the post office properly functioning." Freehold Boro's postal needs are now served from a "temporary post office" trailer located in the parking lot on Lafayette Street.
Today, in 2006, the Freehold Post Office has 41 city routes serving 16,218 addresses, 13 rural routes serving 5,451 addresses and has 125 employees.
The former post office building has now been purchased by Monmouth County and renamed the Monmouth County Veteran's Memorial Building and houses the offices of the Sheriff as well as the county Department of Consumer Affairs.
A historic mural of Molly Pitcher which was painted in 1936 on the west wall of the public lobby of the former post office was first moved to the new facility. However, through the efforts of Monmouth County Clerk Jane Clayton and Robert N. Ferrell, former executive director of the Monmouth County Historical Commission, Rep. Christopher Smith and Postmaster Saouter, the mural now hangs in the Monmouth County Library headquarters, Symmes Road, in Manalapan Township. The reason for its move to the library is that it is visible to more residents and visitors to the area. The painting was executed by Gerald Foster of Westfield who had won the commission as a result of a Section of Fine Arts competition, a segment of the WPA under President Roosevelt's National Recovery Act (NRA) which aimed at putting people to work and lifting the country out of the Depression.