Remembering the old Kingston Post Office

(National Archives photo/colorized by Joseph P. Morgan)

Wednesday, Dec. 11 from 4-7 p.m. at 63 Main St., Friends of Historic Kingston and Blauweiss Media are hosting an open mic where the public is invited to a free event to share memories and anecdotes about the Old Post Office in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of its demolition. The event will be recorded and archived by Radio Kingston. There will be hot cider and cookies and an official “toast” at 6 p.m. The event takes place in a beautiful gallery setting featuring Stephen Blauweiss’ extensive photographic exhibition about Midtown, which will close after this event.

What follows is an excerpt from “The Life & Death of the Kingston Post Office: A Story of an American Community Through the Eyes of an Architectural Gem” by Stephen Blauweiss and Karen Berelowitz, published last year:

“The post office was becoming too cramped to accommodate the quantity of mail flowing through a growing city. By the mid-1960s, the former Fuller Shirt Factory on nearby Pine Grove Avenue was being used for additional storage space.  In August 1965, Postmaster Oscar Newkirk announced that a new, larger facility would be built on the site of a ball field, across from the Shirt Factory on Cornell and Smith Streets. Opening in 1967, the 34,590-square-foot, rather bland brick structure on three acres cost $1.3 million (about $10 million in today’s dollars). It is still in use today. 

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“One dollar, that was the price the City of Kingston could have paid the Treasury Department for the old post office after the new Cornell Street facility was in operation. The offer came with one stipulation: that it remain available for municipal use. Imagine what a library it would have made, right by the high school in the center of town! City historian Ed Ford suggested it be converted into a police station. 

“The mayor at the time, Raymond Garraghan, however, felt that heating the large space with its coal-burning boiler would be prohibitively expensive, that it lacked sufficient parking for a government building, and that the city did not have the money to make repairs (some recall that the skylights were leaking). Mayor Garraghan preferred to have it sold and put on the city’s tax rolls.

“Ulster County was also offered the same deal, but did not come forward. The story that has been told for years and has become city lore, that any nonprofit organization could also have bought the building for one dollar, is erroneous, as the federal government’s offer applied only to public entities. The U.S. government put the building up for sale in April 1968. After multiple rounds, the winning bid was submitted by National Mechanical Corporation, which purchased it for $70,000 in February 1969. They resold it eight months later to Ralston Purina’s Checkerboard Properties, later Foodmaker, for $110,000, which announced plans to open a fast food restaurant.

“While many assumed the building would simply be repurposed as a food service establishment, it was soon announced that the company planned to tear it down. A group of local activists contacted the new owner and local officials in a desperate attempt to save it, but it was too late; the demolition had been approved.”