The Cleveland Building On Arcade St Was Originally The City’s First Post Office… On Arsenal St.
The Cleveland Building on the corner of Arcade and Stone Streets was originally designed by Milo Cleveland and built in 1890 as the first Watertown Post Office. It was made of stone and located on Arsenal Street along with other office buildings. The building would have a short life at this location as plans to develop and build another, larger post office in the early 1900’s lead to its replacement in 1908. In a twist in comparison to the post 1960’s era, the building would be relocated rather than demolished.
Still relatively new, the building would be dismantled and moved to a new location a short distance away on the corner of Stone and Arcade Streets with another level added on to it where it would be was initially to be named the Eagle Block. As described in the July 25, 1907 Watertown Daily Times–
Quite a crowd congregated in front of the City Opera house for about two hours yesterday afternoon waiting to see the big eagle that perched on the front of the old post office building descend from his aerie. It was nearly 5:30 when the eagle was finally lowered to the ground and deposited on its back between the dismantled office and the Post building. Viewed anear (sic) the bird is as tall as a man.
The eagle was sculptured from a block of Gouverneur marble weighing six tons. The work was done in a shed back of the office by a Boston sculptor, and the cost of the eagle is said to have been about $500. The sculptor was several weeks chiseling the block into the bird, using a small plaster cast as a model.
The bird will be mounted on the new block which M. L. Cleveland is to erect at the corner of Arcade and Stone Street and which will be known as the Eagle Block.
The dismantling of the building would be painstakingly accomplished one block at a time, marked carefully by system and stored on the Moore lot in Stone Street, in back of the government property. Oddly enough, there was already a Cleveland Block on Stone Street in 1907 and the new building would also be referred to as the new Cleveland Block and Cleveland Building interchangeably adding to some confusion as to what became of the previous iteration.
The Fate of the Marble Eagle
In 1921, the Cleveland Building would be purchased and used by The Elks Club as their home for Lodge 496. On December 31, 1945, the Times would report the eagle had been grounded–
The large marble eagle on top of the Elks Building, condemned by the city as dangerous to pedestrian travel because of a crack through the center which is a threat to the statue’s collapse, is being taken down.
Dismantling of the marble statute is in charge of the L. W. Charlebois Construction Company which is now engaged in remodeling the entire Elks building in Arcade at Stone Street. City Engineer Fred E. O’Brien, who examined the ornament, said that besides the crack in the statue, it is been loosened from its pedestal and “a strong wind would undoubtedly blow it over.”
The Elks would occupy the Cleveland Building until moving to a new location on Bradley Street in 1988. The Cleveland Building still stands today and as of 2022 is home to The Escape Works, Inc, a popular and well-reviewed “escape room.” Not sure what it is? You can read about it via their website here.