Former Alplaus post office torn down

Crews finish demolition of the former Alplaus post office Tuesday.

PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZCrews finish demolition of the former Alplaus post office Tuesday. PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ

By Steven Williams

Gazette Reporter

ALPLAUS — The former Alplaus post office was torn down this week, despite efforts by residents and town officials to save the historic structure.

The Alplaus Fire Dist. No. 2, which owns the property next to the fire station on Alplaus Avenue, decided to demolish the century-old building, which fire commissioners determined was structurally unsound and would have needed more than $250,000 of work to save.

“The district just did not have the money to rehabilitate the building,” said Andy Gilpin, chairman of the district’s fire commissioners. “We did our best to save the building, but we had to fall back to our last position, which was to demolish it.”

The two-story building at 311 Alplaus Ave. was built in about 1906 as a grocery store, but it saw a number of uses over the years, including being leased by the U.S. Postal Service for more than a half-century. But with post offices being consolidated, the Alplaus branch closed in 2012. Local mail delivery is now handled by the Rexford post office.

The fire district has owned the property since 1998, when it bought the parcel for $100,000, thinking it might be needed for a fire station expansion. A new fire station was eventually built on the north side of the fire district property, leaving the district with no use for the post office building.

Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he was disappointed by this week’s arrival of a demolition contractor and the quick destruction of the building, which was reduced to just a foundation and debris by Tuesday.

“The town very much wanted to save it. But the fire commissioners as owners decided to take it down,” Koetzle said. “I am disappointed; I think potentially it’s the kind of thing that could significantly change the face of the hamlet.”

There was extensive community debate about the building’s future in 2016, following completion of the town fire station. Late last year, the district had a potential buyer for the building with plans to convert it to an apartment and bakery/cafe, but that deal fell through because of the lack of handicapped access and code compliance issues. When that deal was canceled in the summer, Gilpin said the fire district had to return to its fallback demolition plan.

“The bottom line is we never had the money to fix it up,” Gilpin said. “We’re very much constrained as a fire district in what we can do with it. There’s no way to justify the expense, other than for a (firefighting) purpose.”

The district has no plan for the property, though it could be used as an outdoor training area or for a future building expansion.

Cherie Haughney, who lives in Alplaus and is chairwoman of Glenville’s History and Culture Committee, fought for the building’s preservation when the district held a series of meetings on the issue in 2016, and she believed the building would be saved, after the private sale agreement was reached last year. She blames the fire district’s lack of maintenance over the years for the building’s deterioration.

“My reaction is that it’s a shame for a community that sings the praises of its history and character and charm to lose something that like,” Haughney said. “A short-sighted decision by the fire district 20 years ago has resulted in the destruction of this building.”

Alplaus community historian Cliff Hayes said he understands the reason for the demolition — which is costing the district about $24,000 — when compared to the cost of fixing the building up, though he said the demolition was “too bad.”

“It was a place where people would meet and shoot the breeze and gab and stuff,” he said.

The fire district had the building appraised as being worth about $50,000, which it said was less than the cost of the basic structural repairs the building would have needed, even without doing a full rehabilitation. In a report available on its website, the district said it checked with its attorney and the state Association of Fire Districts, and was advised that fire district funds could not be used for rehabilitation.

Following the 2016 debate over the property’s future, the town formed the History and Culture Committee and has purchased the historic Yates Mansion, just west of Alplaus, to preserve it, but Haughney said she’s not sure any lessons have been learned from the loss of the former post office.

“It may have been just a decrepit building to some people, but for others it was full of history and good memories and charm,” Haughney said.