The old Bel Air post office 75 years later

In an event celebrating local nostalgia, the Historical Society of Harford County commemorated the 75th anniversary of the old Bel Air post office Sept. 13 and kicked off its restoration campaign.

Roughly 50 people attended the event where the post office used to operate and the historical society now resides on Main Street.

"It's a tribute to the original builders that this building has lasted this long without a major rehabilitation," Henry Peden, president of the historical society, said at the celebration. "But we are now dealing with issues like a leaking roof and leaking windows, as well as plumbing and electrical issues that just have to be addressed."

Harford County Executive David Craig shared some history of the post office and noted how the event was just as much about the post office anniversary as it was acknowledging the historical society's role as guardian to archives held in the building and important Harford County artifacts.

"The event was extremely successful and extremely pleasant," Richard Sherrill, archives division chairman, said last week.

He explained the historical society's goal is to raise $500,000 to "repair and restore many aspects of this building."

So far, the historical society has received a $50,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to an e-mail sent by the society, which is about 10 percent of the campaign's goal.

They plan to raise additional funding from generous residents and local businesses through donations and future fundraising events.

Taking a walk down memory lane, visitors were treated to tours of the building and artifacts and pictures of the old post office were put on display.

"People were able to see places within the building that are not open to the general public," Sherrill said, such as the basement that had to be cleared out.

One post office artifact Sherrill was able to see for the first time was the catwalk used by the postal inspector.

Hidden in a corner of the building, the postal employee would be able to travel across the catwalk up above and still see what was going on below his feet through holes cut out of the catwalk floor.

During one tour Sherrill gave, he said one person commented, "Yes, you do need the money," referring to improvements needed to be made on the building.

Plaster is coming down in certain places, he said, and several windows need work.

In a creative display of gratitude, Sherrill said a jigsaw puzzle was made from an enlarged picture of the post office.

There are 84 pieces, he said, and names of those who donate $100 or more will be placed on each piece. Once no more pieces remain, the puzzle will be put together, framed and hung on display in the lobby.

One hope of the restoration project is to "restore the lobby to its original appearance," Sherrill said, which includes re-hanging the old postmaster sign above the door to his original office.

Sadly, the historical society doesn't believe it will be able to obtain the Edwin Booth mural that used to hang in the old post office and can now be seen in the Bel Air post office on Blum Court.

The silver lining is that important piece of Harford County history is alive and well and still being enjoyed by visitors today.

In turn, the historical society hopes to do the same with its artifacts and preserving the memory of the old post office.

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