On a patch of land just off Robinson Church Road sits a rebuilt white structure reminiscent of the one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the landscape of close-knit, small towns like Harrisburg.
Many locals are no doubt familiar with the century-old building just a stone’s throw from the Harrisburg farmers market, but for those who aren’t, the building stands as a monument to a bygone era of rural North Carolina.
Constructed in the early 1900s by the Morrison family, the original establishment stood less than 10 feet from the edge of Robinson Church Road and was one of several grocery stores on or near what used to be Main Street, now named Railroad Avenue. By the early 1920s the store, now owned by the Sims family, was awarded the post office contract for Harrisburg. It operated as a grocery store and post office for most of the next 30-plus years, and according to local historian Ted McCachren Jr., the location of the post office had less to do with efficiency and economics than it did with good old-fashioned politics.
“Mr. Sims was a Republican, and if the Republicans were in office, then his store was the post office,” said McCachren, 72, of Harrisburg. “If the Democrats were in power, then it was the Sloop grocery store that was awarded it (the post office contract) … and back then the postmaster was the only employee, so he operated the store as well.”
In 1958, the Sims Store – then operating mostly as a post office – was converted to a farm shed when a new post office was built on N.C. 49 to meet the needs of a growing township.
Over the next half-century the old structure fell victim to the elements including Hurricane Hugo in ’89. Then in 2005 the town of Harrisburg acquired the building, and a relocation and restoration project was undertaken. McCachren, a retired electrical engineer with Cannon Mills, was tapped to oversee the yearlong project.
“We had as many as eight volunteers involved on a daily basis with the restoration, and the town of Harrisburg moved the store back 200 feet off the road so it’d be safe for people to walk around it,” said McCachren, a fifth-generation Harrisburg native.
In 2006, a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicated the Morrison Sims Grocery Store/ Historic Harrisburg Post Office. On hand for the dedication were former Mayor Tim Hagler, former Councilman Bill Williams and numerous volunteers who lent their time and labor to the project.
Since then, visitors have had the opportunity every Monday afternoon, May through October, to visit the historic post office and see the many artifacts from Harrisburg’s rich history on display.
“I often come to the farmers market and love to visit the post office for all its history,” said Harrisburg resident Linda Cooper.
Bob Holmes is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bob? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
Morrison Sims Grocery Store/Historic Harrisburg Post Office, 6960 Robinson Church Road, is open 3-6 p.m. Mondays through October as well as special events during Oktoberfest and the holiday season. Admission is free, though donations are welcome.