THE NEXT TIME YOU’RE traveling Interstate 35 south of Owatonna, instead of whipping by the Hope exit at 70 mph, pull off the freeway and check out this unincorporated community of 120 residents, probably best-known outside of Steele County for Hope Creamery butter.
Unless my husband and I missed the signage, we never saw a sign marking the creamery and simply guessed that the butter-making operation is housed in an old brick creamery on the edge of town next to a farm.
But we discovered several other places of interest after parking our car along the one main road that cuts through Hope. Yes, you need to park your vehicle, get out and walk, rather than simply driving through town thinking, “There’s nothing here.”
You would be wrong, oh, so wrong.
First point of interest: 56046. That would be the Hope Post Office. With a street front facade resembling the general stores of yesteryear or perhaps a building from a western movie set, this old-style structure charms.
Maybe it doesn’t take much to impress me, but I appreciate buildings with character. I quickly determined that the post office serves as Hope’s community hub. I pulled open the screen door and stepped inside a closet of an entry, the door to the post office to my left, the door to a gift shop to my right. Smack in front of me, I found business cards and signs, church festival notices and other information tacked onto a bulletin board. A clutch of rubber-banded newspapers lay on the floor in front of the post office door.
Since I was there on a Sunday afternoon, I had to settle for standing outside, peering through the large, cracked and taped front windows to view the customer service area that is smaller than most bathrooms. But it serves the purpose and I’m sure Hope folks are happy to still have their post office.
I always figure once a community loses its school, its post office and its bank, well then, you may as well close up the town. So far, Hope has only lost its school.
Today the U.S. Postal Service releases a list of 3,600-plus post offices under consideration for possible closure in a cost-cutting effort. I hope Hope is not among them.
CHECK BACK FOR MORE posts out of Hope and other area communities I recently visited while on a Sunday afternoon drive. It’s my philosophy that most of us are missing out on the treasures of small-town U.S.A. because we fail to get off the freeways, park our vehicles on Main Street and explore. Either that or we’re “too busy” to slow down and notice the details worth noticing in our small towns.
If anyone knows about the history of the Hope Post Office, submit a comment. I would like to learn more about this building.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling