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Then & Now. The George Town Post Office

Front Pages 17 Feb, 2020 Follow News

Post office in George Town, 1952 (Photo credit: Cayman Islands National Archive Photographic Collections)

Aerial view of George Town, 1943 (Photo credit: Cayman Islands National Archive Photographic Collections)

Junction of Cardinal Avenue & Edward Street, showing Post Office, with Texaco gas station in background, 1968 (Photo credit: Cayman Islands National Archive Photographic Collections)

Sitting squarely in the middle of George Town, the General Post Office has been serving the needs of the Cayman public since it first opened its door in 1939. It was constructed during the administration of Sir Allan Cardinall as part of a plan to provide public facilities for the inhabitants of the islands.

Up until that point, records at the Cayman Islands National Archives show that Cayman’s first post office opened in Cayman in 1889/1890 as a branch of the Jamaican Post Office. Before this post office was established, post was sent to Jamaica and then delivered by ships. The first Cayman Islands stamp was issued in 1901 and the first commemorative postage stamps were issued in the Cayman Islands in 1932, celebrating the centenary of the Assembly of Justices and Vestrymen. Historically, stamps had been a significant source of revenue for the Government and Cayman has a proud reputation as issuing highly decorative and interesting stamps that have been sought after by collectors the world over.

Another signature project undertaken by mariner turned architect Rayal Brazley Bodden, the General Post Office building again demonstrated his nautical influences, especially in the design of the ceiling that reflects his trademark upturned hull of a ship design within, regarded by some as his best work. While Captain Rayal took charge of the majority of the design of the building, it was his brother, Roland Bodden, who designed the heavy wooden doors of this location. The General Post Office was designed to neatly fit at a cross roads (now called Edward Street and Cardinall Avenue), and was built with a wide porch at its front to act as a public shelter.

At the time, the construction of the post office was the largest project ever undertaken in the Cayman Islands and was certainly ahead of its time in terms of construction, using concrete blocks that were again a hallmark of Captain Rayal’s construction techniques. When it was opened, the building not only housed a traditional post office, it also was home to the Treasury, the Government Savings Bank and Customs. When it was first in operation, the building was considered very spacious in its day, with just one end of the building alone sufficient to handle the monthly mailbags that arrived via the ship the Cimboco (a motorised ship that was also built by Captain Rayal).

The post office opened its doors in September 1939, taking less than a year to build and costing £1,997. The year before, the Cayman Islands Government had obtained a loan of £6,500 approved by the Jamaican Government in order to pay for this project, as well as the construction of the George Town public library and other civic projects.

Due to the rapid growth in the need for postal services, the post office aspect of the building took over the entire premises in the mid-1970s, when a complete remodeling of the interior took place. The post office went through further major renovations in 1994 to help the facility cope with the tremendous growth in population that the islands were experiencing. Presently, Grand Cayman has two large post offices, the General Post Office which still serves customers today and also at the airport. There is also a large post office on Seven Mile Beach at the West Shore Centre and smaller post offices at Savannah, Bodden Town, North Side, East End, Hell and West Bay, Hell’s branch being a popular spot for tourists so they can send postcards from “Hell”.

Even though it was built some 80 years ago, the General Post Office in George Town still serves local residents and tourists alike on a daily basis, an important reminder of Cayman’s past and a symbol of its progression.

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