Yesterday’s topic of conversation was the United States Post Office’s announcement that they are considering closing 3,600 non-profitable post offices around the country. In both the New York Times
and the Washington Post,
the list of targeted offices was published and the Seminary Post office was on the list. This is all part of an effort by the USPS to cut costs as it tries to eliminate its $8M annual shortfall.
It’s difficult to pin down exactly the history of the small white post office on Seminary Road. When Virginia Seminary first moved out of Old Town Alexandria to what was then "the wilderness," students had to take turns making the long trek into town for the daily mail delivery and pickup. This fact is mentioned in John Booty’s “Mission and Ministry, A History of Virginia Theological Seminary.” There is no mention then of when the local post office was built.
In the 1850’s the Seminary raised a significant amount of funds for growth in the endowment and to start a large building project. The chapel that predated the 1881 chapel was expanded, the original St. George’s Hall was erected, Key library was built, and the Aspinwall-Bohlen-Meade complex was planned. It could be that the small post office was added at that time.
During the occupation of the campus grounds by union soldiers, many temporary buildings were erected and torn down. Another possibility is that the post office was built during that time and then never torn down. There is also some reference that the building had actually been originally located in the oak grove but then was later moved. What is clear, according to the Rev. Robert Prichard, Ph.D., the Arthur Lee Kinsolving Professor of Christianity in America and Instructor in Liturgics
is, that the building was on a census of post office sites in 1868.
In the 1980’s the Seminary Post Office was run as a contract station. Similar to running a franchise, the post office was run privately by various people. In 1997 the Seminary entered into a contract with the USPS in which the postal service would take back the management of the post office and the Seminary would provide the building and utilities. Additionally, the post office would provide faculty members with free post boxes and the postmaster would sort the mail between dorms, library, and the administration.
We are grateful to Terri Huff, the current postmistress for the many years she has served at the local post office. And now there are many questions about the future. The final decision from the USPS will come later this year. In the meantime, we will be discussing all the possibilities that lay ahead.
Vice President for Administration and Finance