This Was Then: 02573

The West Chop Post Office mail slot was nailed shut.

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The West Chop Post Office delivered mail to summer residents for the better part of a century, although wintertime mail and packages were routed through Vineyard Haven. — Courtesy Chris Baer

Frederick Alton Long, a 29-year-old butcher from West Dennis, was hired as the first postmaster for the new development of West Chop in 1891. He was the son of missionary Frederick S. Long, who opened a short-lived seamen’s bethel and reading room that year for sailors visiting the Chop (predating the modern bethel by a few years). The Post Office building was erected the following year on Iroquois Avenue.

Postmaster Long was succeeded by Stephen Carey Luce Sr. in 1900. Mr. Luce, who ran a popular grocery and telephone exchange in Vineyard Haven where Rainy Day is today, resigned from the position after a couple of years to become postmaster of Vineyard Haven. He was replaced by his grocery clerk (and nighttime switchboard operator), Joseph Merry, in 1903, and then in 1919 by William Jordan, husband of Flora Jordan, who managed the nearby hotel, the Cedars.

The Bangs family is best remembered in association with the West Chop Post Office. Adelaide Bangs served as postmaster from 1932 until 1958, when she was succeeded by her son, Stuart. A plaque on the front of the building commemorates its dedication in 1978 to the long service of the Bangs family.

This Post Office was only open seasonally. Visitor Karl Dahlem’s story was carried by the national press in 1958: “While he was on vacation at West Chop this fall, [Dahlem] wanted to mail postcards, but the West Chop Post Office mail slot was nailed shut. Dahlem was about to tuck the cards under the door when a native drove up and yelled, ‘Hey, the Post Office is closed — ’til next summer.’”

The West Chop Post Office has joined many other small Island branches in history, including those in North Tisbury and Gay Head. Like Menemsha (formerly Creekville, 02552), West Chop survived into the zip code era, and was assigned the now discontinued 02573.

 

Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.