Downtown post office remains ‘much a secret’ to many area residents

HARLINGEN — The remnants of a Pennsylvania black cherry forest still stand in one of the downtown area’s hidden gems.

For four years, the city’s old post office has been for sale, now for $825,000.

Originally built in the 1930s, the old post office’s neo-classical architecture gives it a timeless feel.

But inside, a $3.5 million renovation makes the building dazzle with old-world charm.

Currently, a portion of the building is being leased and still used by the U.S. Postal Service.

But much has happened over the years.

In 1993, the former San Benito Bank & Trust renovated the building as part of its plans to expand into the Harlingen market.

Bank President Nathan Winters ordered and oversaw the project at 221 E. Van Buren Ave.

So Winters selected some of the finest talents for the job.

Architect Cortland Morgan designed the project while Robert Shaw installed the millwork.

Murray Thompson of San Benito served as the project’s contractor.

“We bought a black cherry forest in Pennsylvania,” Lew Vassberg, the project’s interior designer, said yesterday. “Every piece of veneer in that building came from that forest.”

Winters gave Vassberg a blank check, telling her to “make it the nicest building in Harlingen.”

So Vassberg spent about $800,000 on appointments.

Biedermeier-style furniture fills the vast lobby under a mural by the late Normah Knight.

Painted in the early 1950s, the mural tells the story of the Valley’s agricultural and industrial development.

Big boardrooms showcase grand conference tables while a maze of offices feature lavish desks.

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