Monday, February 20, 2017

A Treaty of 1794, and the Canadian Post Office Accessible without a Passport

Along the far northern border of New York with Canada (Québec) lies a bit of an oddity: a Canadian post office that you, the everyday American citizen, can drive to from the U.S., mail your letters from in Canada, and re-enter the States without having a passport or passing trough Customs. This anomaly is due to a jut of land passing barely through the 45th parallel—the line that defines the border (+/- some surveying error) between U.S. and Canada in Vermont and eastern New York—causing a wee bit of Canada to be attached to the United States. Driving from this little bit of Canada to another point in Canada? Gotta pass through the U.S. first. Check out this map; you can zoom out to get a greater sense of the landscape as well:

The land, known as Saint Régis or Akwesasne, is part of the Mohawk Nation; it is a (reservation) territory that straddles both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. Our particular point of interest is located 20 minutes northeast of Massena, New York and about 75 miles southwest of Montréal. For this little spit of Canadian land, the only way in or out is through the U.S. This, combined with the 1794 Jay Treaty, which affirms that Mohawk members may pass freely across the United States-Canadian border, means that the border is not built up with Customs and Inspection infrastructure. What are you going to do, build a wall, or stop and inspect people whose houses lie on the border, who have only one means of exiting and entering a 0.2-square mile piece land in a close-knit Native community? Not a chance. The crossing is "free"; you can cross back and forth between the U.S. and Canada at this little point, and you have a choice of U.S. Post Office or Canada post office when it comes to mailing.

On the U.S. side is the Hogansburg post office, ZIP code 13655. Located just off the Akwesasne reservation and just off New York Route 37, is of a standard late-century design and is staffed by friendly personnel. It is located 2.0 miles from the Canadian border.

Hogansburg, NY post office:

Heading north you'll be hard-pressed to identify the actual border between the U.S. and Canada. The best visual identification stems from the speed limit sign seen here:

Located a few hundred feet beyond the border (and actually visible in the photo above) is the Akwesasne, QC Canadian post office (postal code: H0M 1A0). It is found in the Angus Mitchell Memorial Community Centre with an -r-e. Oh yes, you're really north of the border now!

Akwesasne, QC post office:

Here's a look back into the U.S., actually at an Akwesasne school bus stop, from just inside the Canadian border.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed this little slice of Canada and of trivia! (Notes: Al Jazeera provides insights into the lay of the Akwesasne land, borders, and governance here. An official, detailed map of the reservation, which also extends into Ontario, can be found here.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This is Sparta!! (And Milledgeville, Georgia)

Milledgeville and Sparta, Georgia are two county seats respectively located 50 and 30 miles northeast of Macon. They also have two similar post office / Federal Buildings from the 1960s I thought would be interesting to show.

Almost nothing about this building says "post office." I drove clear past it once, even knowing exactly where it was supposed to be. A modest etching in marble, "Federal Building," resides above the front door, and there's a snorkel mailbox in front. Aside from that and a cornerstone concealed by bushes at the left corner of the building, you'd barely know what this building is.

Sparta, GA: Yvonne Ingram-Ephraim Post Office Building
Yvonne Ingram-Ephraim Post Office Building

Sparta Federal Building: 1962 John F. Kennedy cornerstone

Long-time readers of this blog might know I'm really not a fan of cookie-cutter '60s federal buildings, but Sparta's and Milledgeville's were a bit different. First, they assimilate some vernacular architecture stylings from the romantic Deep South. Second, they actually have artwork inside, a throwback to FDR's New Deal and my favorite era of postal architecture, the grand buildings from the early 20th century. Also, nice black marble!

Sparta, GA Federal Building mural

Milledgeville, GA: United States Post Office and Federal Building

Milledgeville Federal Building: 1960 Dwight D. Eisenhower cornerstone

Milledgeville, GA Federal Building murals

The old post office building in Milledgeville was built during the early 20th century, and now houses the local Chamber of Commerce.

Milledgeville, GA: old post office
Old Milledgeville post office

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Paradox in Colorado

I drove through Paradox Valley for the sole reason of visiting new post offices and photographing more American communities. Paradox was an unexpectedly beautiful village; so much so that it made up for the surprisingly low 25-mph speed limit coming around the mountain from Utah. (Hey, I'm a New Yawker.)

"A Place Called Peculiar: Stories about Unusual American Place-Names," page 38, by Frank K. Gallant reveals the origin of the town named Paradox in the far western reaches of Colorado. The town was named "in the early 1880s after Paradox Valley, so called because the Dolores River cuts through the canyon walls at right angles, an unusual geological formation. Early settlers found the valley almost inaccessible... The only way into it was to unload all the wagons, dismantle them, and then lower the pieces by rope to the floor of the valley."

You can get a bit of a taste of the landscape with this satellite view (here, southwest of Paradox):

You know what? The best way to share the visual experience with you is to just show you photos taken along the way. So let's have at it! Starting with where Utah Route 46 becomes Colorado Route 90 at the state border heading east.

Colorado state line, Utah Route 46 / Colorado Route 90

The village of Paradox in the distance:
Paradox, CO in the distance

View of Colorado Route 90 past the turnoff to Paradox:
Colorado Route 90

Loving the old store in Paradox!
Paradox, CO store

Of course, here's the Paradox post office:
Paradox, CO post office

Paradox Community Center:

Telephoto of Paradox from Route 90:

Hope you enjoyed! 'Til next time,

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Canaan, Meet New Post Office

In our last story I noted the festivities surrounding the opening of the then-new grand downtown post office in Orlando, Florida. That brought me to thinking: could you imagine such a celebration for a new post office opening today?

In New Canaan, Connecticut, where the post office had not been located at a permanent facility for three years, the District Manager had to respond to claims that USPS had really desired to close its facility: "This goes on all over the place, not just in New Canaan ... We've been very successful in finding new Post Office residences in towns where, in some cases, it was very, very difficult to find the real estate, whether it's a lease, rental or actually built." Says the manager of the District that effectively closed the Tariffville and Yantic, CT post offices with no intention of replacement. In recent years the Connecticut Valley District has also purged historic postal facilities as if on ipecac, and took three years to re-open a post office in downtown population-120,000 Stamford. Can you really blame New Canaan for being a bit concerned?

The new permanent post office finally opened in New Canaan, and customers are thrilled with the amenities, notably the fact that parking isn't terrible anymore. (I can attest to the awfulness at the temporary site. I pretty much had to park by... the new post office. I wish I were making that up.) Perks for local customers now include 24-hour lobby access for P.O. Box access and a self-service kiosk.

(The loss of USPS's lease at its non-permanent facility could not have been such a surprise internally. Just look at its listing in USPS's Leased Facilities Report.)

Fun fact 1: A former Postmaster discussed the issue of post office relocation from a perspective you won't usually hear. I found this essay enlightening and I think it's worth a read. Here is an excerpt:
Most post offices are downsized to a smaller operation than truly needed ... resulting in longer wait times. New Canaan currently has four retail transaction windows. The flawed data may result in the new office having as few as two transaction windows. Once those retail counters are gone, they are never coming back.
Fun fact 2: There was even a mobile postal van unit providing retail services across from the old post office during the transition period!

Without further ado, let's look at the three recent actual-building sites for the New Canaan post office.

1. 'Old' Post Office, 2 Pine St., open for 55 years, closed Jan. 18, 2014
Old New Canaan post office
(See the health food store now at the site of the old post office here.)

2. Temporary Post Office, 90 Main St., Jan. 21, 2014 to Dec. 2016
Temporary New Canaan post office
(Note the banner in lieu of a sign above the door!)

3. New post office: 18 Locust St., opened Dec. 30, 2016.
New New Canaan post office
(Courtesy a Google Street View image, Oct. 2016. Hope to drop by and snag my own photo for here soon!)

I've gotta say I like the building housing the new facility. Bringing back that federal style! You can see more post offices of the interior here. 'Til next time.

Beautiful Post Office: Downtown Orlando

It's been a while since we did some of these Beautiful Post Office posts, so let's escape the (yet-again-"unseasonably"-warm-)winter and head to a nice historic post office building down south. Millions of people come here every year to visit the theme parks around Orlando... so everybody has pictures of that. Boring! Let's see a post office instead.

Here's an old postcard of it!
Old postcard, Orlando post office Orlando's then-new post office received high praise in the Orlando Morning Sentinel upon its opening in 1941: "The severe beauty of the structure from the outside was forgotten the moment one stepped inside its main lobby with its high ceilings, ornate bronze doors, grilled windows, and locked boxes ... Everything about the place—new, shiny, and polished within an inch of its very life."

The event was something. Opening ceremonies lasted in excess of three hours. Hundreds of people attended. The high school band played the national anthem! (Part 2 of that story is in the link above.)

Here are some photos of the post office as it now stands. Main post office and mail processing operations moved to a facility at Orlando International Airport in 1980; now this is the Downtown Station post office.

Downtown Orlando post office
Downtown Orlando post office
Downtown Orlando post office

Here is the building's cornerstone. You can see by the names at the top that this building was constructed as a post office and federal courthouse.

Downtown Orlando post office has other historic information from the opening of the facility, including a suggested program for its dedication and other documents (including the two newspaper links from earlier in this post). provides further information about the building's history:
In 1935, when James Beggs, Jr. became the postmaster, he began petitioning to move the post office from its Central Boulevard and Court Avenue location to a more spacious building. In 1939, St. James Catholic Church sold a plot of land on Jefferson Street for the new building. The building's designer was Louis Simon, who used a Northern Italian Palazzo Revival style. The new building opened in 1941 and housed the post office, the courthouse, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offices. The building was named an Orlando Historic Landmark in 1989. However, it was eventually sold back to the St. James Church. In 2003, the building was renovated and came under joint ownership by both the church and the federal government. Today, the building retains its post office services but also includes offices for the Catholic Diocese.
See a great photo from soon after its opening here. See more goodies from post offices of downtown Orlando here.