Community members are circulating an online petition to save and potentially restore the old Alplaus Post Office at 311 Alplaus Ave.
Cherie Haughney, who has called Alplaus home for the past 14 years, said the post office officially closed in 2012. Haughney has spearheaded the effort to save and restore the building.
“It was so much more than a post office,” she said while sitting on her front porch just up the road from the old building on a rainy Monday morning. “It wasn’t just a place where you picked up your mail. They had a dog dish with water out on the porch. You’d visit with your neighbors. It was small-town America at its finest,” she said.
Haughney, a mother of three and a freelance writer, started organizing back in April after hearing that the building, now owned by the Alplaus Fire District, might be demolished. To spread the word, she started a Facebook page that now has over 200 followers. “That’s more than I ever expected,” she said.
The building was built between 1906 and 1908, according to the petition. By 1910, it was transformed into the hamlet’s first grocery store by Jacob Boyce of Ballston Lake. Boyce’s daughter Ida later turned the building into a post office, where she was postmaster for 30 years until retiring in 1972. Ida’s husband, Joe Dillman, ran a bike shop from the same building. According to Alplaus historian Cliff Hayes, the building has also been used as an insurance agency and a gift shop.
Haughney said Alplaus’ “distinctive charm” is a large part of why she and her husband chose to live in the Capital Region. “The old post office building is the very essence of that distinctive charm and neighborhood character, and its preservation and continued use is essential. Demolishing the building will permanently and irreparably alter a defining characteristic of our neighborhood,” she added.
The hard work and success of those who brought new life to the Vischer Ferry General Store has been an inspiration to Haughney. “They took this old building and lovingly restored it. It’s stunningly beautiful. The parking lot is always full. Every time I try to explain my plans to someone I take them to Vischer Ferry,” she said. “People want the experience. It’s different from going to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts,” she added.
George Donahue of Rexford wrote on the petition’s website: “I restored the Vischer Ferry General Store after a fire in 2013. Do the same and preserve some history.”
“I believe it is crucial to invest in one’s own community — to maintain a historical connection to one’s community. Places are memory carriers — storers of a shared heritage. This building has a story and a history that belong to our community,” said Haughney.
The goal of the online petition is to convince the Fire District to sell the building “for restoration and reuse as a community asset.” Haughney said she wanted to get something down on paper to show that there truly is a groundswell of support to keep the building standing. The idea is to transform the historic building into a “privately owned neighborhood bakery and coffee shop” rather than demolishing the building.
Andrew Kennedy of East Glenville wrote, “I want to see the post office saved. Make it a community center where we can stop by and catch up with the news of the village. Need to keep the integrity of our special area.”
Haughney has organized “heart-bombing” campaigns, which involve writing down memories of the post office or reasons why it shouldn’t be demolished on paper hearts to put on display. She is actively searching for grants and funding to purchase and restore the building. If she can secure adequate financial backing, Haughney said she would like to restore the building and start up a bakery.
Since the petition was launched, 67 community members have signed on in support of the idea.
“Not only will restoring this building and making it an asset strengthen our community, it would improve our streetscape and preserve our history, maintaining a critical connection to our past. We need to save historic places and let them thrive. Not let them crumble and come down,” she added.
Fire Commissioner Mike McHale said he didn’t know much about Haughney’s petition or her ideas to restore the building, though he said the district would be open to selling the property to someone in the community.
“It depends very much on the specifics of the situation,” he said. “The land is worth something for us. It was initially purchased with the idea of creating more space for the district,” he said. Though the property has recently been appraised, McHale would not disclose the appraised value. He said that information would be made public during public meetings Aug. 10 and 24 at the firehouse.
“The fire district doesn’t have a use for it at this point in time. We are planning public meetings in August to discuss the options for what we might do with the building,” said McHale.
“We haven’t made any decisions right now. We’re still gathering information — appraisal of the building, structural inspection, asbestos survey. All of that will be presented to residents on Aug. 10 and on Aug. 24,” said McHale.
The post office is directly next door to the firehouse. According to Haughney there have been no occupants in the building since 2012.
Donald Lester of Ballston Lake commented on the petition that he grew up in Alplaus and that his first job was at the Alplaus Cycle Shop. “The building and its history are a piece of me. Because I grew up [on] Bath Street, I waited for the bus there all during school. It was always the center of town,” he said.
Another supporter, Gail Warren of Johnsonville, wrote: “Too many vintage buildings are lost in the name of progress.” Patricia Knowlton of Rexford echoed Warren’s sentiment, writing, “History once lost, cannot be replaced.”