HINSDALE, N.H. (AP) — When the small town of Hinsdale's post office opened in 1816, it didn't need all the space in the two-story wooden building on Main Street.
Through the years, it has shared space with telephone operators, a general store and even a barbershop. As the town grew bigger, the post office grew larger, eventually taking up the building's entire ground floor. And as the other businesses came and went, the post office stayed.
Now, it's the nation's oldest post office to continuously operate in the same building. Hinsdale marked the 200th anniversary Tuesday with a celebration at the town hall.
These days, the post office is a bright spot in a town where the paper mills, local movie theater and even the downtown gas station have closed. The building and its history give this town of 4,000 in this southwestern New Hampshire something to brag about.
"People take pride in it. It's a great reminder of how things used to be," said Donna Suskawicz, who grew up in Hinsdale and moved back to town just last week.
Much of the building's original character remains. The hundreds of brass mailboxes that line the front walls are originals from the 1800s, with letter combination locks. When it's humid, the wooden boxes get stuck and won't open, employee Brenda Martin said.
Martin, a lifelong Hinsdale resident who has worked at this post office for 20 years, said she firmly told people not to polish the boxes' tarnished brass doors in preparation for the celebration.
"They wanted to clean it all up so it looks shiny, and I said, 'No, you leave it the way it is, it's 200 years old,'" Martin explained with a laugh.
In the early 1900s, Hinsdale's town hall burned down. The fire didn't spread next door, leaving the post office standing and cementing its place as one of the few original town monuments. It has managed to avoid destruction since, even withstanding two attempts by burglars to blow up the safe in the early 1900s, Postmaster Cindy Mason said.
Like post offices nationwide, Hinsdale's is learning to adapt to a world where fewer letters are mailed. First class letter service is down, but package delivery is up, keeping the post office as busy as ever, Mason said.
The office also still serves as a central gathering spot for townspeople, whether they're picking up mail or simply want to know what's going on.
"We call this the information highway," Martin said. "People come in to ask what happens."
Sean Leary, a former Hinsdale post office employee, said he often reflected on all the letters that have traveled through the building and all the workers who took them where they needed to go.
"You have 200 years of this building being here doing what it's doing," he said. "It's very cool."