On February 27, 1868, Mr. Isaac M. Christy received a letter informing him that a proposed post office named Lucas had been approved. The office officially opened a week later with Christy appointed the first postmaster. The current facility was constructed in 1974 with the design and construction representing the first area office built to the latest postal service guidelines. The steel building featured a concrete driver for loading and unloading mail. The post office is open six days each week.
The first bank in the Lucas County town of Russell was founded in July 1890 by two residents of nearby Chariton. Operations began in a small wood-frame building before moving to the pictured brick facility in 1896. The building has housed a myriad of bank operations over the past 110 years, including:
- Russell Bank, 1890-1907
- Russell State Bank, 1908-1930
- Russell State Bank and Trust, 1930-1938
- First State Bank of Chariton, 1938-1967
- Hawkeye Bank and Trust of Chariton, 1967-1985
- First Central Bank of Chariton, 1986
- Resolution Trust, 1990-1997
- Citizens Bank of Corydon, 1997-2003
Since January 2003, the office has operated as a branch location of Great Western Bank. It’s open three hours a day, five days per week.
The current Chariton Public Library building was dedicated with a grand celebration on October 28, 1904, a year after Andrew Carnegie pledged $10,000 for the library’s construction and just six years after a public library was first established in the Lucas county community. Designed by Chicago-based architects Patton & Miller, the library featured an interior layout unlike others being constructed at the time, with an arrangement so the librarian could oversee both main reading rooms from a single desk. The unique floor plan became known as the Chariton plan and was used throughout the country in the following years. A new addition was added in the 1990s; it doubled the library’s space, while retaining the architectural style of the historic building.
The City Hall and Fire Department share a metal building in the southern Iowa town of Russell. Established in October 1867 and named after its founder H.S. Russell, the Lucas County community is home to 559 residents. The Russell Community School District made headlines in March 2008 when the State Board of Education voted unanimously to force the district to close. The decision came after the district was found to be $300,000 in debt and not in compliance with several administrative regulations. Twelve seniors graduated in the final class from Russell High School; most students enrolled in nearby Chariton the following school year.
Local residents celebrated when the Hotel Charitone opened on the northeast corner of the square in the Lucas County seat of Chariton. The hotel featured modern conveniences including tile floors, a telephone in every room and an in-house restaurant. The future looked bright for the historic building in 2003 when developer Charles Thomas purchased the abandoned hotel and announced plans for a $1.5 million renovation. The plans included renovation of the building to accommodate fifteen assisted living apartments with a “full spectrum of amenities.”
The project never got off the ground, and in January 2008, the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance group placed the building on its list of Most Endangered properties. That year, a portion of bricks detached from the south side of the building, and while the owner took steps to prevent additional damage, including covering the windows with plywood, the structure remained in a state of significant decline. No further changes have been made to the property, and in December 2010, the Chariton City Council voted to move to acquire the property’s title by classifying the building as a public nuisance.