The United States Postal Service said that it closed a small, historic Virginia post office located in the same building as a museum about racial segregation earlier this summer due to concerns about the museum’s historical display.
In June, the Postal Service suspended operations at a small post office in Montpelier Station Post Office, which is located inside a restored train depot owned by a nonprofit foundation that manages former president James Madison’s Montpelier estate. The museum has two exterior doors with historical signs labeling one “white” and the other “colored.”
“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,” Philip Bogenberger, a spokesperson for the Postal Service, said in a statement to USA TODAY Thursday.
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The 1910 train depot that houses the museum and the post office, located adjacent to the gates of Montpelier, was preserved to represent what it would have looked like during the Jim Crow era. The exhibit, which opened in 2010, is explained by a panel on the building’s exterior.
But Bogenberger said information about the museum and its proximity to the post office “was only recently brought to the attention of senior Postal Service management.”
Christy Moriarty, the foundation’s communications director, said the exhibit has coexisted with the post office for more than a decade.
“We are proud of the exhibition that presents the realities of life during the Jim Crow era, showing the original segregated ticketing and waiting facilities,” Moriarty said in a statement to the Culpeper Star-Exponent newspaper. “We call upon the USPS to reverse the decision and reopen this historic facility that has served this community for over a century.”
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The post office had one employee and was open four hours each day, according to Bogenberger.
The office closed without any notice to the nearly 100 customers it serves, creating logistical issues for the rural community, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents the area, said in a letter to the agency’s district manager earlier this month.
Bogenberger said the Postal Service intends to find another suitable location in the community to operate or if none are available, conduct a study to decide whether or not to discontinue the branch.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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