Downtown postal services finished – for good – as P.O. boxes locked tight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 13, 2008

For the past 38 years about six days a week, Walter Hallberg has stopped by the post office on Crawford Street, where his family has had a box for more than 50 years. On Friday morning he made his final trip, as the post office closed its doors at the end of the day for the last time after 73 years in downtown Vicksburg.  

“I’ll probably come down here Monday just out of habit,” Hallberg said with a chuckle.

Hallberg and others with boxes at 820 Crawford St. have the option of having their boxes moved to the U.S. Postal Service’s Vicksburg headquarters on Pemberton Square Boulevard or discontinue service. Hallberg said the long lines and less convenient location of Pemberton have led him to close out his post office box altogether.

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“I’m going to get the mail at home from now on. The Pemberton post office is too crowded; it’s a nightmare,” he said. “I can understand the post office’s position though. There used to be a lot going on in this building, but times have changed.”

Built in 1935, the Crawford Street building originally housed a post office and U.S. District Court, as well as other federal agencies. As attorney Lucius Dabney walked into the post office on Friday to mail a few letters, he recalled attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the now vacant five-story building when he was a 10-year-old boy.

“It’s been a nice post office, a significant part of downtown, and it’s a shame to see it go,” said Dabney. “But, there are some good people here who have made the transition better than it could have been. They made sure we got the same P.O. box numbers and the same size boxes.”

Postal Service officials first announced the downtown boxes and services would be eliminated last April, after the building was sold to Delta Court LLC. Principals of Delta have said they plan to remodel the building into a luxury hotel. Boxes have since been added at the Pemberton location, which was built in 1992, to accommodate all customers who wished to continue service. Postal Service spokesman Doug Kyle did not have exact numbers on the number of people who opted to transfer their boxes to the Pemberton location and those who closed them out for good.

Many businesses across the state and country have contracts with the Postal Service to provide boxes and services. The businesses are required to provide space and staff, and in turn receive a percentage of the total postal business done at their location. Although Postal Service and local officials began to look in February for another downtown business that could take on the boxes and limited post office services, none was ultimately found.

“It didn’t make sense to anybody unless you already had the space, the staff and were already paying the overhead,” said Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens, adding about six locations showed serious interest in the downtown area. “When you crunched the numbers, there was nothing to be gained from it for the business owners.”

While the downtown boxes are likely gone for good, Kyle said there is still hope a business or individual can be found to contract some postal services in the downtown area.

“I don’t think you’ll see the P.O. boxes move back downtown again, but we’d love to have a retail location down there if it can be arranged,” said Kyle. “When the economy gets back on its feet, it could very well happen.”