walkLEX: Another Chapter Closing at Lexington's Oldest Post Office

Metropol - Lexington, Ky.
Metropol at 307 West Short Street - Lexington, Ky.
Dr. John Shremly honored his uncle, Harry Schraemli, when he opened Metropol in 2000. This fine dining locale at 307 West Short Street has for eleven years offered delicious meals and fine drinks at its Harry's Bar (named after Uncle Harry).

Schraemli, who passed in 1995, was renowned in Europe for his gastronomy. This master in the culinary world wrote numerous books and publications; his Meistermixer remains the "bartenders bible across Europe." The European heritage of Metropol is easily visible from West Short as the building proudly displays the flags of France, Switzerland, Italy, and others alongside Old Glory.

307 W. Short St.
Bullock Collection
But the buildings themselves cannot be ignored as they have their own fantastic history. Constructed as a post office in 1836 (some records indicate construction occurred as early as 1825), 307 West Short is the oldest surviving post office in Lexington.

The first postmaster here, Joseph Ficklin, would later serve as counsel to Cuba under the nomination of President Polk. His "lively" house on High Street was home to Jefferson Davis during the future Confederate president's years at Transylvania.

When the post office opened at West Short Street, the cost of postage was measured by the number of pages and the distance to be travelled. A three-page letter requiring a distance of 400 miles would cost 75¢ (in other words, in 175 years the cost of postage has decreased -- no wonder the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble!). Of course, the cost may be attributed to the excellent customer service: the post office was then open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and for an additional hour each Sunday morning.

The structure itself is a simple, two-story antebellum commercial building. Originally, the first floor frontage was almost entirely windows, but an  unfortunate renovation in 1971 covered this frontage with brick veneer as well as covering the remainder of the building with aluminum.

Metropol - Lexington, Ky.In 2009, Schremly expanded Metropol to include the neighboring structure to the west. There, the Hotel Drake Annex completed this island in what has become a sea of parking lot. The Annex was built ca.  1901 in the Queen Anne style. The Drake Hotel converted the Annex into a "liquor dispensary" after Prohibition. In former versions, the West Short Street hotel - which spanned the length of the block's now empty parking lot - operated as both the Ashland House and the Reed Hotel. It became the Hotel Drake in 1926 and it then became an "infamous hangout for bookies and prostitutes."The Drake was torn down in 1962. Of it, only this Annex remains.

Metropol merged these two buildings into a sizable, beautiful restaurant. But this Friday, Metropol will close its doors. Be sure to stop by and say hello.

Sources: BGT file; MetropolNRHPWalking Tour Brochure