Joann Lutcavich and Erma Gyhra cutting the ribbon for the dedication of the Steinauer Community Heritage House.
The small town of Steinauer, NE, is home to 75 close-knit community members who value the rich heritage of their historic territory. Named after three brothers from Switzerland who founded the town in 1856, the population has dwindled some since its peak of 248 residents in 1910, but the legacy of the Steinauer family remains as strong as ever.
Last month, the Steinauer family converged on their namesake town from as far away as Peru for a family reunion. One of the main events held during the gathering was the re-dedication of the former Post Office into a community museum called the Steinauer Community Heritage House.
“We had nearly 150 people join us for the dedication,” said Event Organizer Terry Wagner-Lomax. “It was the kick-off for the family reunion.”
The conversion of the Post Office into a museum was a community-involved effort, with many members contributing special items to the cause. The gathering at the re-dedication ceremony brought back fond memories of it’s past.
“As a child, one of the placed we always used to stop in was the Post Office,” said Terry. “The Postmaster would always have a treat for us and it was a lot of fun.”
The 792 square-foot building, built in 1874, served as the Post Office for nearly 120 years. In honor of its service to the town, two Steinauer brothers purchased the property and renovated the building. It’s transition into a community museum involved careful planning and the support of the local community.
“The project itself started a year and a half ago,” said Terry. “When people found out about the project, they started bringing things to the Post Office such as the original mail sorting desk and employee desk. When we looked inside the drawers, we found original route maps. It’s been fun for the community to see these things go back to where they belong.”
Terry’s great, great grandfather, Joseph Steinauer, was one of the original founders of the town. He also became the first Postmaster in 1874.
“Joseph originally ran the Post Office out of his home,” said Terry. “He eventually built a building and moved the Post Office there. He never received a salary as a Postmaster, but he did make a little from selling stamps, though it was never more than $20 a year.”
In addition to serving as a Post Office, the building simultaneously served as the town’s first bank and printing press. Eventually, the bank moved to a separate building and the press ceased operation, leaving the Post Office as the sole business occupant for more than a century.
The Steinauer Community Heritage House is home to postal memorabilia, a memorial to the community’s veterans, and a variety of photographs, documents and other items that chronicle the rich history of the town and the Post Office. The unique collection of items housed inside the fully restored building will provide the opportunity for members of the community to relive and rediscover the heritage of the town for many generations to come.
An image of the Steinauer Post Office many decades ago.
The Steinauer Post Office as it appears today.