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Photo by Diane Cox
Postal worker William Perkins of Meadowbrook helps Monica Sennacher of Alton on May 26 as employees scramble to pack up the contents of the post office on Belle Street in preparation for the new location on Homer Adams.
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CaSaundra Jolliff looks over post office boxes in the lobby of the post office at 727 Belle St. The box fronts and their respective keys were being sold prior to the post office’s closure late May. Jolliff was considering buying one to make it part of her office décor.
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Joan Price of Alton reads a sign announcing the relocation of the post office from 727 Belle St. to 2350 Homer Adams Parkway so remediation work could be conducted on the site.
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Photo by Diane Cox
The post office on Belle Street in Alton has been in business for five decades. The doors officially closed May 26 as employees relocated to their new home on Homer Adams across from Halpin Music.
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Photo by Diane Cox
The new post office on Homer Adams Parkway.
ALTON — Convenience and change.
When it came to Alton’s main post office at 727 Belle St., the former was welcome. When it came to its closure in late May, the latter was not quite as welcome. The post office relocated to 2350 Homer Adams Parkway, closing May 26.
Debbie Eggebrecht lives nearby on Ninth Street and thought the closure was “a shame. A downtown needs a post office. It’s very convenient and there are so many businesses around here that need one.” JMC Design, Logo It, Belle Street Key Service and A.C.T. Auto Body are in the immediate vicinity, with many more businesses within walking distance.
But for Joel Buesteton, the closure was no big deal.
“You have to embrace change,” he said. He didn’t find the Belle Street post office any more or less convenient than the other two locations, so it wasn’t a “big deal” for him.
“Besides, if they have to do remediation (on the building) it’s a good thing,” he said.
The 50-year-old post office was closed because of residuals of manufactured gas that were found on the property. The 18,699-square-foot building was constructed in 1966 and leased from Ameren Illinois. In July 2009, Ameren sent a letter informing the Belle Street facility it was investigating sites where manufactured gas plants once operated. Ameren participates in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary Site Remediation Program. The post office is one such site.
Gas used to heat homes or light city lamps at night was made in plants between the 1800s and 1940s. When the old buildings were razed, residue from coal tar was left behind and covered over with dirt.
Although the residuals were located at a depth ranging from 10 to 25 feet beneath the surface of the post office’s parking lot, the building was considered safe to be used. But because there wasn’t a way to remediate the site while the USPS continued to conduct business there, the decision was made not to renew the lease when it expired in 2016, according to an informal planning site report.
Ameren spokesman Brian Bretsch said a final walk-through was conducted Tuesday. The next step is to raze the building.
“We’ll have to get bids first for that contract, so razing probably won’t start until mid- to late-fall,” Bretsch said. “There was never any harm (to employees or customers). We’re being proactive and just trying to do our environmental due diligence.”
CaSaundra Jolliff is a professional speaker and CEO of The Jolliff Group. She not only saw the Belle Street post office as a convenient location, but as part of Alton’s history.
“I’m very disappointed. I grew up on Belle Street and this is where I came with my grandmother when I was a girl. I thought it would be here forever. It’s part of our history and memories,” she said.
The new location, the former Piasa Lincoln Mercury building, has been renovated to accommodate its new tenant and is now open for business. Hours are 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:45 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Another former post office that is part of Alton’s history is going to be preserved through the efforts of John Simmons. Simmons is an attorney and founder of Simmons Hanly Conroy and a majority stakeholder of Alton Steel Inc. The two-story building on the corner of Alby and Third streets was built in 1906. In addition to a post office, it has also housed shops and restaurants. It also has been a popular stop on local ghost hunting tours.
Over recent years, the building has seen decay and vandalism.
“There are things that have to be done to preserve the status quo,” Simmons said. “The roof needs some repair and we’ll get rid of the graffiti. But I can’t say what will go in there. Right now I just want to see it preserved; (we are) not necessarily getting ready for any tenant.”
Alton residents can pick up box mail and packages at 2350 Homer Adams. Retail services will be available at the Upper Alton office, 1624 Main St., or at the office inside Alton Square Mall.
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