- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

EAST COLUMBIA, Texas (AP) - Wes Metzler has a deep appreciation for old, historical buildings, so when the opportunity came up to restore a piece of the area’s history from the mid-19th century, he jumped at the chance.

“I didn’t want to see it destroyed, it’s too much of a landmark for East Columbia,” Metzler told The Facts (http://bit.ly/1j8NgiF) of Clute.

Located on Front Street, the 25-foot-wide, 50-foot-long wooden rectangle building that faces the Brazos River, sits in a small, four-house neighborhood established in 1846. Originally a post office, the building has been used for purposes other than what was intended for it, including at various times a bar and grocery store.

The building has been gutted and currently has no walls, with the trussed, metal roof held up by construction equipment to allow workers to repair the foundation.

The structure will be raised more than 12 feet, and moved back 6 feet to its original location after years of shifting toward the road when the foundation rotted, Metzler said.

Once the foundation work is finished, the restoration process can begin, he said. Metzler will put the siding back on, insulate the inside, reinstall the flooring and walls, install the windows and rebuild the front porch.

He is researching the history of the post office, and would like the old building to look as close as possible to the way it did originally. Metzler, a Houston resident, owns a home in East Columbia that he built and uses as a get-away house.

Like his house in East Columbia, he is restoring the old post office using salvaged materials that he has taken from buildings around that time period.

The original front doors will be put in, the walkway will be built with handmade slave brick that came from the Hawkins plantation in Sargent, and an iron fence from that time period Metzler purchased in Houston will be put in front, he said. The metal used for the roof is rusted, but in good condition and can be reused.

A water cistern is located inside the post office, a 10 feet by 10 feet wide area that could be used for a wine cellar or a bedroom, he said.

Michael Leebron, “Mr. East Columbia,” was about to begin restoration of the building before he died of a heart attack in July of last year, and Metzler took over the project to honor his memory, Metzler said.

“Since he died, I didn’t want to see his dream end, so I wanted to carry it on,” he said. “Michael was kind of the heart and soul of East Columbia.”

Metzler bought the post office in November.

The project will take about a year to complete, he said.

“I could build it sooner, but I would like to take my time on it,” Metzler said.

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