Montpelier Foundation, former box holders want answers on post office closure

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 1:36 PM EDT
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ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The Montpelier Station Post Office closed back in June with no warning and no reason as to why.

A few weeks later, USPS said it closed the location because the post office shares a building with a segregation exhibit.

Many in the Orange County community are puzzled by this decision. The post office was opened in 1912, and the exhibit was opened in 2010, and there have seemingly been no issues for the past 12 years.

“This is not just a post office, it’s a social setting where our neighbors all run into each other,” longtime box holder Steven Brooks said.

Brooks says he reached out to Orange County’s local postmaster for an explanation, but never received a response.

Weeks later, in a statement from Washington, the Postal Service blamed the segregation exhibit that shares the building, but not the space of the post office itself.

“Montpelier restored and opened the other end of this building as a museum about segregation. We’ve restored the white and colored waiting rooms and ticketing offices to the way they had looked in 1910, and it’s clearly marked as an exhibition. It would be impossible to mistake it for something that was you know, real today,” Interim President and CEO of the Montpelier Foundation Elizabeth Chew said.

“The post office actually is singled out in the exhibit for its stand against discrimination. The post office as a federal agency did not subscribe to discrimination and to Jim Crow, and what they did was they serve all customers equally,” founding Chair of the Montpelier Descendants Committee and member of the Montpelier Board of Directors James French said.

French says he has never heard a single complaint about the museum sharing the building with the post office.

“Just the opposite, no complaints but constant praise, constant appreciation from visitors, tourists, local community, descendants, and, importantly, also from museum professionals, our peers. The post office has been open for over a century serving that community, and our exhibit has been there for a dozen years and we have received no complaints,” French said. “There is no connection between the two separate entrances and inside the building, they do not connect at all.”

“Anyone who can read can read the signage and understand that it is a sensitive historical recreation of an era in our country that we need to be aware of,” Brooks said.

Now, box holders are accusing the Postal Service of breaking its own rules.

“We’ve learned that the normal procedure for shutting down a post office is to give the postal customers a 60 day advanced warning, and to provide a hearing so that people can share their opinions about it. None of that happened here at all. It was literally shut down with a sign on the door on Thursday, June 2, and that was it,” Chew said.

NBC29 reached out to USPS with a list of questions, including:

- Who complained about the shared space?

- How many people complained?

- Why does it look like USPS procedures were ignored?

USPS said that it does not have a statement beyond what was previously sent, a statement that does not answer any of the above questions.

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