Glyndon residents rescue post office

Purchase: Rather than see their post office move out of the old railroad station, 40 families buy it.

October 29, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

When word spread last summer that the tiny post office in Glyndon would be sold and redeveloped, dozens of dismayed residents didn't just sit back. They decided to deliver their own good news.

Reaching deep into their pockets for $3,000 each, 40 families bought the train station that houses the Victorian town's post office. It was an effort not only to save the turn-of-the-century building, but also to preserve the heart and soul of this northwest Baltimore County community.

"This is where we meet and where we have our conversations about who's well, who's ill and who's going where," said 61-year-old Margaret Griffin, who moved to Glyndon shortly after she was married 35 years ago.

"And sometimes, we even pick up mail for our neighbors," Griffin said, as she walked out with a magazine for Bill Bollinger, who owns a car shop down the road.

Inside the red brick building with green arches, you might bump into 77-year-old James E. O'Meara Jr., whose grandfather helped build the original train station in 1895, or Richard Stem Sr., 79, who has worked for the Glyndon Volunteer Fire Department for more than a half-century.

Sometimes, Glyndon residents visit the station to catch up on local gossip or to read the wooden bulletin board for details about the coming $10 oyster and ham supper at the Glyndon fire hall.

In June they saw a flier saying the owner of the station intended to sell it. Because the station lies in a town designated as a historic district, it couldn't be torn down. But none of the prospective buyers was likely to lease the station to the U.S. Postal Service, Glyndon residents learned.

"I thought we needed to mobilize as quickly as possible," said Nan Kaestner, 38, whose family has rented a post office box in Glyndon since 1918. "So we called our friends and neighbors, and within a week, the reaction we got was very strong.

"People didn't want to lose the post office. This place is very special to us."

The town's growth has often been credited to the Western Maryland Railway, which built the station along Railroad Avenue out of Texas marble in 1895, according to "The Story of Glyndon," written by longtime resident Myrtle S. Eckhardt.

Originally called Reisterstown Station, the town was renamed Glyndon in 1879. The first station burned in 1903; a new one was built the next year.

Early on, Glyndon was a summer community for wealthy Baltimore residents who sought slightly cooler weather by escaping to homes nestled against Worthington Valley hillsides. Often, their getaways were not bungalows, but well-maintained homes with large, wrap-around porches, Victorian gables and tall windows.

Because the railroad offered service from Westminster to Baltimore, people began living there year-round. Mary Merriken, whose father owned a garage in town, can remember catching the 7 a.m. train into Baltimore to go to work. She still crosses the tracks almost every morning to visit the post office.

But passenger trains stopped coming through Glyndon. The station was closed in 1967 and sold to a private investor. Several years later, the post office opened there.

Although much of the town has changed -- the Charlie Kelley blacksmith shop and Lewis Knight ice cream plant are long gone -- the station has remained.

"This is a very, very friendly village with third- and fourth-generation families living here," said Jean Wroe, 62, who helped organize the fund-raising effort. Her husband, George, 68, is volunteering his time to do electrical repairs, plumbing and maintenance on the station.

"Whenever there is a need, we rally together to make sure that need is taken care of," Wroe said.

In less than a month, Kaestner and Wroe put together a group of investors and set up the Glyndon Train Station LLC in August with about $120,000, which provided a down payment on the purchase price of about $200,000 and something left over for work needed on the old building.

A board of directors manages the building to pay the mortgage and handle renovations.

Last week, a group of workers was busy scraping paint from wooden eaves, fixing an old roof and removing asbestos from the bathroom. Hundreds of brass-like post office boxes were due for a shine, and the walls were set for a fresh coat of paint.

"The thing that is most unusual about this is to get 40 people together in a community like that to produce a substantial amount of money per person and achieve a single goal," said Steve Gruner, a real estate specialist for the U.S. Postal Service who helped renew the lease for Glyndon's post office.

"It's more of a reflection of an unbelievable level of community spirit, I think."

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