Baker University invited the community to an open house Feb. 13, 2020, to tour the newly restored Palmyra Post Office, built in 1857. Visitors were also able to view a traveling exhibit from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council on the history of migration to Douglas County, which was on display next door in the Old Castle Museum on Baker’s campus in Baldwin City.
The building is important to both Kansas and Baker University history. A group of Methodist ministers met in the post office, at the time located in the town of Palmyra, to discuss plans to build the first university in Kansas. The building is one of the two last standing structures from the town of Palmyra and served as a post office on the Santa Fe Trail from 1857 to 1862. It was later moved to its current location in Baldwin City, and is the oldest timber-framed building related to the Santa Fe Trail.
“The post office is listed on the Kansas Register of Historic Places. It was falling apart before we restored it,” said Sara DeCaro, university archivist and museum director. “It was our duty to preserve a piece of valuable history for the community.”
Before the restoration project, the post office was used for storage. The project fortified deteriorating portions of the building, and work was funded through a $65,000 grant from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council and a $7,500 donation from the Douglas County chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society.