300 East Main Street
Every Building Has a Story
Eight thousand dollars. That was all it cost the U.S. government to purchase the land on the corner of Weeks and Main Street for the new Post Office of New Iberia. The first post office for New Iberia was established on March 2, 1814, and it occupied leased space. After a little exaggeration (only towns with an approximate population of 10,000 could be considered for a permanent facility, and according to the 1890 census, New Iberia’s population was 3,400) and extensive lobbying from U.S. Representative (later Senator) Robert F. Broussard, House Bill 11314 passed both the House and the Senate on February 28, 1899. On March 2, 1899, President William McKinley signed HR 11314 into law providing for a new, permanent post office for New Iberia. The excitement was short-lived when the building contract went to an out of town construction firm, Brandt and Company of Atlanta, Georgia. This led to no dedication of the building and no cornerstone marking the building. The foundation was laid just before. Christmas 1902, and the new United States Post Office in New Iberia, Louisiana opened for business October 10, 1903 for a grand total of $32,198. Letters, postcards, and bills were circulated through the Old Post Office at 300 East Main Street from October 10, 1903 until June 18, 1965.
After sixty-two years in service as a post office, the building was purchased by Jules Schwing in 1965 for $51,150. The building went through a renovation process creating more interior office space while maintaining the integrity of the original public spaces for the Schwing Insurance Agency. In 1996, the Schwing family undertook a restoration of the aging building preserving it for future generations. Today, it still serves as the home of Schwing Insurance, Inc. and also as a landmark of New Iberia.
If Walls and Windows Could Talk
This building of neo-classical revival Williamsburg-style, has a five bay façade dominated by three major arches containing the doorway flanked by arched, double hung, 14 over 12 lights. The French doors, reached by a flight of concrete steps located between low limestone walls, with an arched transom above, are surrounded by three layers of white molding, two pilasters with meticulously carved capitals, and a lintel with “Schwing Insurance Agency” written across in gold lettering. The cornice surrounding the door and two arched windows are of painted wood with capstones and sills of limestone. The cornice, pilasters, and capstones are duplicated on the two arched windows. Flanking the three main arches are double hung, two smaller double hung, six over six light windows set into recessed arches with limestone capstones. The façade ends with a limestone dentil capped by a combination balustrade and parapet of limestone which surrounds the entire building. The red brick Old Post Office / Schwing Insurance Building is on a four foot high foundation of limestone. The corbelling along the edges is in patterns of brick rectangles. Upon the gray shingled roof sits a centered octagonal dormer and leads up to more crown molding. At its highest point, the Old Post Office has a cupola with eight columns and a domed roof. Originally, a wooden, decorative balustrade surrounded the cupola at the ridge line with the post office flag pole atop the domed copper (now painted) cupola roof.
A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words
“Book Photos, Documents Building’s Beginning.” The Daily Iberian 10 October 2003: 1-2. Print.
Conrad, Glen R. New Iberia: Essays on the Town and Its People. University of Southwestern Louisiana. Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies. 1986. Print.
Taylor, Emily. The Schwing Insurance Building.2011. Photographs. Private Collection.