The Smithsonian visits Kaweah Post Office


Almost daily, travelers make their way the three miles up North Fork Drive to visit the historic Kaweah Post Office. It is believed to be, in its own detached structure, the smallest continually operating post office in the United States.

On this past Presidents Day (Monday, Feb. 16), two distinguished scholars in the field of stamp-collecting history visited the Kaweah Post Office. Calvin Mitchell and Daniel Piazza, assistant curators of philately at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., stopped off at Kaweah as a part of a fact-finding tour of western postal places for an upcoming Smithsonian exhibit.

Both men are recognized experts in American history. According to Kathleen McCleary, who hosted the dignitaries for a picnic, the two researchers were tracing two postal continuums during their current tour: mail delivery on Route 66 (National Historic Corridor) and post offices that served national parks.

McCleary, who owns the Kaweah Post Office building and leases it to the United States Postal Service, along with volunteer Carol Jones, gave a tour of the building and recounted for the visitors the local lore and history of the tiny post office.

The Kaweah Post Office was established in 1890 at its original site at Advance (the same year Sequoia National Park was created), four miles farther up the North Fork. It was later relocated to Redstone Ranch (present-day Riata Ranch). In 1910, the building was rebuilt at its present location along North Fork Drive. 

“I was surprised when I got the call from Shirley [Three Rivers postmaster] that these two gentlemen were coming,” said Kathleen. “They also visited Sequoia National Park to find out more about the 125th anniversary celebration that the parks are planning for later this year.”

McCleary said the visitors were intrigued by the Kaweah Colony history and that they would be researching the original mail contract that established the Kaweah Colony post office.  

In 1948, California officially designated the Kaweah Post Office as State Registered Landmark No. 389 owing to its association with the Kaweah Co-operative Colony, which established in the area in 1886. A first-day cover was issued and 5,000 cachets were mailed to collectors.

“So that means it’s time for another party for the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Kaweah Post Office,” Kathleen said. “The preservation of the historic post office and perhaps another first-day cover for stamp collectors are certainly a cause worth celebrating.”  

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