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
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
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,
Evan

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

OCLS.info 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).

UCF.edu 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.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Postal Summary

Welcome to Postlandia's seventh annual year-end summary. During 2016 I visited 865 new active postal facilities across 17 states, bringing my grand total to 7,461. This represents the most new visits since 2013. As always, for the active and curious follower, here are the summaries for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Woot!

Instead of driving cross-country, as I have historically done every four years, I took a handful of flights to regions of the country I wanted to explore further. These included two weeks in the high west: Albuquerque, northern New Mexico and southern Colorado; a week in Alaska (with postal layover in Seattle); a week in the Salt Lake City area / eastern Utah and western Colorado; and a week and a half in the southeast: South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Furthermore, Postlandia friend Kelvin and I explored the northern reaches of Maine and got some great photographs and stories along the way.

This summer I finally visited several post offices accessible only by ferry: Fishers Island, NY; Prudence Island, RI; and the Sophie C Mail Boat in New Hampshire. In Alaska I visited a handful of post offices only accessible by boat or by plane! But that's another post (coming soon!).

Perhaps most significantly this blog got an overdue "re-branding". No more Going Postal; hello, Postlandia! The idea came from the title of a story published a couple of years back. We've also got a great new calendar for you as well.

Postlandia post office calendar

As always, this year's visits included "standard" post offices, Contract Postal Units (CPUs), and carrier-only and mail processing facilities, not to mention former sites of relocated and discontinued facilities. For example:

Bangor, ME: Broadway Hardware CPU


Portsmouth, NH Processing and Distribution Facility (P&DF)


Alamosa, CO: former post office


Columbia, SC Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC)


But postal journeys weren't all the excitement for Postlandia 2016. Devin Leonard published his great book: Neither Snow Nor Rain [link: NPR story], which tells the story of the Post Office Department (now Postal Service) through the lens of many of the distinctive people and lives who made the institution what it is today. Yours truly is featured in the prologue and epilogue of the book! Devin was gracious enough to invite me to speak at a talk he gave at the New York Public Library this summer.

Evan and Devin at the NYPL



That's me being highly amused by someone's question.

This followed a presentation at the once-a-decade World Stamp Show at the Javits Center in New York, wherein I got to discuss some of the interesting post offices and places of the Big Apple. And postmarks!



2016 by the Numbers

I visited as many as 34 post offices in one day. State by state, counting only new, distinct active postal locations (including CPUs) for the year:

New York: 115 post offices
Focus/Foci: Modest upstate travels: Rockland, Orange, Sullivan, and Delaware County; west of Syracuse

New Mexico: 108 post offices
Northern New Mexico; Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and numerous Native reservations in NW NM

Connecticut: 91
Northern, southeastern CT; Norwich

Maine: 79
Far north, and eastern Maine; Bangor

Colorado: 71
Southern, western Colorado; Grand Junction, Durango, Pueblo

Georgia: 70
Augusta through Macon, to Thomasville

Utah: 53
Wasatch Valley: Salt Lake City, Provo; and eastern Utah: Vernal

South Carolina: 50
Columbia area; and south toward Charleston and west toward Augusta, GA

Florida: 44
Tallahassee and Orlando areas

Alaska: 43
Anchorage, Wasilla, and the Kenai Peninsula

Pennsylvania: 40
North-central, rural PA

Massachusetts: 32
East of Springfield and east of Worcester

New Jersey: 23
Northern NJ, near NY border

Rhode Island: 22
Northwest, southern RI

Washington: 12
Seattle area

New Hampshire: 11
Southeast N.H.; U.S. Sophie C., Lake Winnipesaukee

Arizona: 1
Teec Nos Pos—closest post office to the Four Corners

Teec Nos Pos post office sign

Milestones

I achieved post office #7,000, as well as post office #1,000 in just the state of Pennsylvania, during the same afternoon this summer (actually, just a couple of post offices apart). Actually, I've now visited at least 100 post offices in each of 22 states. This year added New Mexico, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Georgia to that roster. Connecticut now reaches the top five, with 321 different active locations visited.

Me at post office #7,000: Crosby, PA



Me at Pennsylvania post office #1,000: Hazel Hurst, PA



Counting Counties (and States)

I've now visited all 50 states, as well as more than 1,000 counties across the U.S. This map shows the most recent extent of my travels (2016 travels in light pink). There's always so much more to see!



Hope to write more for you soon!
Evan, Postlandia