Tuesday, April 29, 2014

West Hempstead's Original Post Office

The image above from 1963 shows the one-story building at 439 Hempstead Avenue at the grand opening of the West Hempstead branch of the Community Bank, a financial institution that began in Lynbrook only three years earlier.  The building itself was built in 1949 and started as the site of what was West Hempstead's first permanent post office.  Until that point, West Hempstead residents and businesses were served by the main PO branch in Hempstead.

For the first three decades of the 20th century, mail deliveries to WH comprised of a modest rural carrier service involving mounted couriers and mail sorters trying their best to navigate confusing final address destinations that often included duplicate street names non-existent house numbers and absent postal boxes.

On June 11, 1929, the USPS awarded West Hempstead with an upgrade to the much faster and efficient system of two dedicated "city postal carriers" who were dispatched daily from Hempstead.  This upgrade required that all WH residents had to ensure they had address numbers and letter boxes or slots installed at every home and business, else they would be required to pick up their mail at the Hempstead Post Office.  Needless to say the vast majority of West Hempsteaders complied with this directive.

For the better part of the early 20th century, it had been customary for the USPS to set up a temporary local office during the holidays, usually in a centrally located grocery store or pharmacy, to handle the influx of mail during that time and for the convenience of customers. But by 1934, the WH Board of Trade (forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce) felt it was time for a post office of our own.  In April of that year, they passed a resolution urging for a separate local post office.  But it wasn't until after WWII that WH would finally get one.

On May 1, 1948, the first permanent full service Post Office in West Hempstead opened inside Filmore Pharmacy, at the corner of Hempstead Avenue and Locust Streets, and plans were announced later that year for a PO station building to be erected across the street.  It was at this time that the duplicate street names in WH were eliminated by renaming them, (hence for example, Oak St. became Oakford St., Walnut St. became Walton St., Maple St. became Maplewood St. and Lincoln Ave. became Langley Ave. and Harrison Ave. became Halsey Ave.).

In 1949, the building pictured above opened as WH's first stand-alone Post Office and served there until 1962 when a larger facility was built further north at 245 Hempstead Ave, its current location.  When the USPS vacated 439 Hempstead Ave., the young Community Bank selected the site as its second branch and inaugurated its opening with a ribbon cutting, pictured below.

The man holding the scissors is TOH supervisor Ralph Caso to his right is branch manager William Keilmann.

On October 1, 1970, Community Bank merged with Marine Midland Bank of New York. In order to assuage the fears of wary customers who thought that after being swallowed up by a much bigger institution, the bank would lose its local "community"-oriented approach to service, Marine Midland ran the ad below in local papers:

Shortly thereafter, in typical fashion, Marine Midland itself got swallowed up by the financial giant HSBC in 1976, which continued to run a branch at 439 Hempstead until 2006.  Following a period of vacancy, a scrapbook business named Scrapaholics occupied the location before giving way to its current tenant, pictured below:


Anonymous said...

I believe it was Filnord Pharmacy not Filmore.

Jacob said...

You are probably right. The article in Newsday from Apr 24, 1948 from where I got that piece of info. had it as "Filmore Pharmacy", but I now see later references to "Filnord Pharmacy" at 492 Hempstead Ave (a.k.a corner of Hempstead Ave and Locust St.)

Could be the reporter just got the name wrong. Thanks for the correction.