ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — One Virginia post office located in a historic train depot has abruptly suspended its services without informing the community.
Montpelier Station Post Office has served Orange County for the past 110 years since its opening in 1912.
Before it was a post office, it operated as a train station after William duPont built the Depot in 1910. This was a regular stop on the existing Southern Railway line. Initially, the stop only served the duPont family and other residents of Montpelier but quickly became a frequent stop for the community.
When the postal service opened in 1912 during segregation, Stationmaster Eugene Ross Lewis served as the first Postmaster. Before its recent closure, it continued to serve the rural community despite the train stop closing in 1974.
For the next quarter of a century, the Post Office operated out of a small corner of the Depot with the rest of the space left to recognize the history of the depot.
In 2003, the Montpelier Foundation started raising money for restoration and preservation efforts. Construction began in 2008 with the intent to restore it back to its original design. The space formerly known as the train stop opened as an exhibit on February 21, 2010. Since then the space has doubled as an exhibit and a post office located in the same building.
On June 2, 2022, the post office shut down before warning the owners of the historic site and the community. They left a sign on the door reading:
“The Montpelier post office is currently suspended. Therefore, it will be necessary to suspend services at the Montpelier post office at the close of business 06/02/2022. This change is tentative and will not lead to a formal proposal unless we conclude that it will provide a maximum degree of regular and effective postal services. While the office is suspended, a search for alternate quarters will be performed. Please contact the Postmaster of the Orange Post Office for advice regarding Post Office Box service. PO Box and retail services are available at the Orange Post Office located 3.7 miles away. Window service hours at Orange Post Office are from 9:00 am-5:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 10:00 am-12:00 pm on Saturday. Post Office box lobby hours are 12:01 am to 11:59 pm, Sunday to Saturday.”
Community members at Montpelier say they were not notified and received little information from their former Postmaster.
“He simply said that it was a decision that was coming out of Richmond, and he did not provide us any other information,” said Christy Moriarty, Director of Communications. She continued to say, “We’ve tried to reach out to them, they have not responded. We’d really like to sit down and have a conversation with them.”
After reaching out to USPS, officials replied with the following statement:
“Regarding the Postal Service’s decision to suspend operations at the Montpelier Station Post Office… this is a leased Postal Service-operated facility, which has one employee and operates four hours daily. This postal facility is co-located in a building that has been recognized as a historic site with a museum about segregation. There are two exterior doors to the museum, and signage above one door reads ‘White’ while the other bears a sign ‘Colored.’ Information about this museum and its proximity to the Post Office was only recently brought to the attention of senior Postal Service management. Because the Post Office is co-located in the same building as the segregation museum, Postal Service management considered that some customers may associate the racially based, segregated entrances with the current operations of the Post Office, and thereby draw negative associations between those operations and the painful legacy of discrimination and segregation that marked prior historical eras. Thus, Postal Service management elected to suspend the Montpelier Post Office with the intention of finding suitable alternative quarters in the community, or in the absence of any, to proceed with a discontinuance study if appropriate.”
Montpelier community member told 8News by doing this, the post office violated regulations mandated by 39 U.S.C. §404(d)(2).
Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger explained in a letter to the USPS the rules they violated.
“Prior to closing or consolidating a post office, the USPS must consider the impact such a closure will have on the community and postal employees. Additionally, USPS is required to consider its policy to “provide a maximum degree of effective and regular postal services to rural areas, communities, and small towns where post offices are not self-sustaining.” USPS is required to make its determination to close or consolidate a post office in writing, and its determination must be made available to the customers served by the post office. Further, the USPS may not close or consolidate a post office until “60 days after its written determination is made available to persons served by such post office” under 39 U.S.C. §404(d)(4). Any person served by the post office may appeal the closure within 30 days of USPS’s written determination.”
The owners of this exhibit were promised a town hall meeting soon after the closure. But they still haven’t had that opportunity.