James Matthew Griggs, the 2nd Congressional District's U.S. representative in the early 1900s, is remembered with a bronze plaque in the century-old West Broad Avenue post office building that bears his name. Griggs was instrumental in securing appropriations for the 1912 construction of the building. (Dec. 9, 2012)
ALBANY -- Listen closely when you visit the endangered post office at 345 West Broad Ave. Perhaps you'll hear the echoes of long-stilled voices: wizened, white-haired veterans of the War Between the States longing for a letter from their children or an old companion, corseted ladies in rustling dresses and high-button shoes, as if boarding the steamship Titanic.
In fact, the Titanic made its first and final voyage in 1912, the year the downtown post office was completed. D.W. Griffith released "The Musketeers of Pig Alley," the original gangster movie -- silent, of course -- that year. Teddy Roosevelt won the nomination of his Bull Moose party.
After a century of service to the community, the West Broad Avenue post office is set to close in May, victim of hard economic times. The United States Postal Service has been forced to compete with private firms and with the social and electronic phenomenon called email. Even worse, in 2006 a congressional mandate decreed the service must "pre-fund" health insurance benefits for all its future retirees, unprecedented in either public or private sectors.
According to the USPS and to Frances Krack, leasing agent for the Griggs Building, where the facility is housed, there remains the possibility a private firm could take over most important functions of the post office, though it's uncertain whether customers could maintain their original box numbers or even the same zip code.
Krack, Johnny "Rabbit Man" Williams, city and local officials, including Albany City Commissioner Roger Marietta, are at the forefront of an ongoing protest against the closing. According to 2nd District U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, the greatest chance for congressional reversal is to contact the Republican leadership of the House, which, Bishop said, is holding up discussion of the USPS health fund.
Krack said her research marks the opening of the West Broad post office on Feb. 24, 1912. The facility would be built on a site originally known as the circus grounds, owned by H.P. Jones, who ultimately sold land lots to the Albany Hebrew Congregation in 1876. Until purchased by the U.S. government, the land was referred to as "synagogue lots," the research states.
A bronze plaque, placed on the first floor of the post office by the city of Albany and Dougherty County, credits James Matthew Griggs, second district congressman from 1897 to 1910, with obtaining the appropriations for the facility, which now bears his name.
Nellie Brimberry, whose late husband had been postmaster, in 1910 was appointed first postmistress of a first-class post office by President William Howard Taft. While Brimberry may have been grateful to Taft for the appointment, and to Griggs for helping to provide funds for the structure, she couldn't have voted for either man. As a woman, she'd wait another eight years for the 19th Amendment to pass before she would be allowed to vote.
Brimberry is said to have secured for pecan growers the privilege of shipping by mail sealed packages of their product. According to research accounts, the advancement brought national attention to south Georgia pecans.
For her research, Krack cites page 59 of "Albany on the Flint;" Dougherty County Deed Book 5, page 781; Dougherty County Deed Book 16, page 170; an oral history by H.B. Brimberry; Georgia Press Reference Association, 1927, Nellie Brimberry (Women of Georgia), and The Albany Herald's Feb. 21, 1966 obituary of Nellie Brimberry.