Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Postal Summary

The stats are in:

This year I visited 738 [new] post offices, bringing my grand total up to 1,561. Even though the following numbers add up to 736. Oh well. Here are my post office visits by states:

New York: 186
Focus/foci: New York metro, including Westchester and Nassau counties

Ohio: 124
Northern Ohio, near I-80; Cincinnati

Massachusetts: 101
Boston metro

Hawai'i: 80
O'ahu and the Big Island

Pennsylvania: 59
Near I-80; Philadelphia

New Hampshire: 40
South, along I-93; the coast

Oregon: 40
Salem and Portland

New Jersey: 36
Near I-80; near Route 1

Maryland: 26
Baltimore, & -D.C. corridor; Silver Spring

Connecticut: 14
Hartford; New London for the annual PMCC Convention

Kentucky: 11
Cincinnati metro

Maine: 7
Southern tip

D.C.: 6
Northern stations; The Capitol

Rhode Island: 1
Block Island

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'll have a Strawberry-Banana, and Send this Certified.

I was able to visit the Chinoe CPU of Lexington Kentucky in September 2009. It's since been discontinued. Believe it or not, it was in the back of a smoothie store!



Have you ever heard of such a thing before? .. Me neither... Maybe that's why it was discontinued.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Updates on the USPS 'Hit List'

For those who need it: The Postal Regulatory Commission posted post office branches and stations that USPS would like to close. Here is the list, in .pdf format. It has not been revised for a long time, but many of these offices either have or will shortly be closing.

    Here are some offices on the list known to have already been discontinued:
  • Long Island City, NY: Parcel Post Annex
  • New York, NY: Tudor City Station
  • Omaha, NE: Station B
  • Fort Smith, AR: South Fort Smith Station
  • Detroit, MI: Linwood Station -- Dec. 3, 2010


The only post office of the 18 I've visited on this list that is confirmed to be closing (aside from those in Boston), is in Mansfield, Ohio: the Lincoln Retail Branch. It is to close February 11, 2011.



In memoriam: Faneuil Hall Post Office

The Boston, MA: Faneuil Hall [Station] post office has been discontinued. Given how historic the site was and how frequently the office was used, I think that's a terrible idea.

I snapped this photo of the office in July, before it closed. Wasn't it cute?:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Tale of Two Antlers

On my 2008 cross-country road trip, I couldn't decide how best to get from Minneapolis to Yellowstone. So I took what was obviously the most straightforward route, jutting north 250 miles up to Winnipeg, crossing Manitoba and tipping into Saskatchewan (collecting some Canadian postmarks along the way -- and let me tell you, they were the FRIENDLIEST about it -- every single office), and diving south back to Bismarck, to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and eventually over to Yellowstone.

My AAA/CAA map showed me a cute little pairing -- a town in Saskatchewan and a town (60 miles south) in North Dakota called Antler. So, I stopped at both and got each postmark.

Here's a map:

View Larger
The Antler, SK office was in the back of a woman's house, and had no signage except for hours in the window. It was fantastic!

As all the roads in Saskatchewan were gravel, I headed back into Manitoba for the crossover back to the States. After all, it was the middle of nowhere, how long could it take to get back into the country?

As it turns out, A LONG TIME. Apparently it's uncommon to see solo 21-year-old males from New York City crossing back into the country in the middle of absolute nowhere (this is what it looks like from the Manitoba side -- note how Google Street View turns off near the security-sensitive border crossing), and so they took the liberty of inspecting every single item in my car over 45 minutes. To their credit, they packed my trunk more nicely than I'd had it prior!

It's a good thing they shut my car engine off, or it would've run out of gas. (It was more expensive in Canada, so I saved up to buy back in the States.) Finally, a couple of miles down the road was the town of Antler, ND -- population 55 (and gas $3.999). It featured a Standard Oil gas station and, of course, the Antler post office. Shannon, the Officer-in-Charge, was getting promoted to Postmaster the next day, and to celebrate I took her photo in front of the office. Here's a photo I took from the gas station (with the PO in the background):

Monday, December 13, 2010

In training...

As a follow-up on my prior post about Philadelphia, allow me to present post offices inside train stations. Two of them, in Philadelphia, are in major transit hubs, and when I visited them, were being well used:
Philadelphia: 30th Street Station.

In Philadelphia, the 30th Street Station is the major Amtrak hub, though it also serves the SEPTA [Metro Philadelphia] system. Penn Center is a major subway station in downtown Philadelphia.

Below, two post offices in train stations that effectively constitute the centers of their respective towns.
Mill Neck, NY train station and post office.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Philadelphia

I just got back from a mini trip to Philadelphia, wherein I visited 21 offices. I have time just for a short entry:

The Philadelphia Main Post Office has moved, from across the street from the 30th Street Train Station (where there's a post office station, incidentally), kitty corner a couple of blocks away. The windows and carriers are in the new building, while the district offices and processing have been moved to another facility, further away. The old post office (below) is now being renovated for use by the IRS.



Here's a view of the new MPO:


One nice thing is that two post offices in Philadelphia are located INSIDE large train stations -- namely the 30th Street Station and Penn Center. I think that's a great idea that should be applied more frequently.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Country Music Country

Think of Nashville's Acklen Station as the Katz's Delicatessen of the postal world. I opt to post internal photos of this office because many people are allowed to take photos inside (you'll soon see why), and there have been reviews (including photos) have been posted of it before. When's the last time you've seen a post office reviewed on Yelp? The exterior is nothing to write home about:

(And that doesn't even count as a PMCC Museum-quality photo, since it includes just the sign, as opposed to the full exterior.)

But, as we are near the heart of country music, witness hundreds of signed 8x10s of virtually any country music star you can think of! We happen to be talking big names, too.


And: they're all signed to the Acklen post office.


So next time you're in Nashville take in a concert, and see the stars at the Acklen post office!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Literally Colorful Office

Here's a purple post office, courtesy of redwood country in California. Presenting Phillipsville, CA!:

Monday, November 22, 2010

For the record...

Since another post office enthusiast and photographic archivist -- indeed, a former Postmaster himself -- was recently harassed by a Postmaster in Missouri while taking a photograph of her post office (and given the experiences detailed in two previous posts), I feel compelled to specify what the laws (and postal regulations) say about post office photography.

On the issue of [exterior] post office photography:

So long as one is on public property, one may take photographs of whatever you please -- including federal buildings such as U.S. Post Offices. If that were prohibited, then Google Street View images would be blacked out around such facilities. You should see the high-resolution stuff they've got in Manhattan!

Nobody has the right to inspect any photographs you take from public property. The only exception is if law enforcement has probable cause to suspect that your photography is directly involved with some nefarious activity. (a.k.a. They have a specific reason to assume you're a terrorist.)

The only situation I can conceive for which that would apply to exterior postal photography is if one sits in the woods behind a post office, recording the activity of the trucks and the carriers for eight hours. THAT's kind of suspicious. Taking photos of the front? That's absolutely fine.

Photography policy: inside post offices...

Postal Operations Manual
§ 124.58 Photographs for News, Advertising, or Commercial Purposes
Photographs for news purposes may be taken in entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums when used for public meetings, except as prohibited by official signs, the directions of postal police officers, other authorized personnel, or a federal court order or rule. Other photographs may be taken only with the permission of the local postmaster or installation head.


(So yes, you can be restricted from taking photographs inside post offices, even just of murals, and even if it's just for archival purposes. If they do allow you to do so, they have the right to set whatever restrictions they so choose. Let's just hope they're friendlier and better informed than some of the places I've recently visited, then!)

P.S. In the case of the post office in Missouri, the Postmaster yelled at my friend, declared that his reason for taking a photo of the post office ("It's my hobby.") wasn't good enough, and copied down his license plate number to report to law enforcement. Of course, absolutely nothing became of that since she had no right to pull that garbage to begin with.

1,500 Post Offices

It took about 24 hours of work spanning six days, but I recently made an Excel spreadsheet documenting all the post offices I've ever visited. Including experience notes! (Such as: beautiful office; friendly/nasty Postmaster/clerk; exceptional postmark; arrived just before closing; etc.)

For the most part it was easy to keep track of where I've been, because I've taken photographs of most post offices I've visited (including all since late 2009); and the postmarks in my collection tell me what day I visited any office!

There is the issue of "postmark prehistory", however: what post offices did I visit in my younger years? My father took us [mom and I] to various offices while we were on vacation. My threshold for visiting is thus: I explicitly recall visiting a particular office (with my memory possibly jolted by a postmark I see in our boxes); or I had an interaction with the facility once I started venturing out on my own. That is, I took a photograph of the facility or obtained the postmark (or left a note and materials if it was closed, requesting such); or both.

Every post office I've visited since 2008 is explicitly documented, though it's possible I will be adding more office visits from my younger years. Nonetheless, for the time being I've established the 1,500th post office that I've visited: Atlantic Beach, New York, at the southeast corner of Nassau County.

(If I remember more, 1,500 could migrate to Long Beach, NY, or Island Park; Oceanside; or other offices I visited on Friday the 19th. But let's stick with this.)

The Atlantic Beach post office is, unfortunately, characterless in terms of signage; but it did have a nice four-bar (one of about four I've seen on Long Island) and a black dater with "New York" written out. Class act!

This is the Atlantic Beach Post Office:


Perhaps the most photogenic office on my Nov. 19th "run" was that in Freeport, NY: a beautiful WPA (Depression-era) office complete with vertical murals inside. I took this photo before sunset, and the light struck the fa├žade beautifully:


Unfortunately, that afternoon I also experienced two troublesome offices in terms of documenting their murals for the PMCC Museum. One Postmaster claimed that the authority to allow picture-taking was stripped from him "after 9/11" -- which is false. He insisted that I get written permission from the Long Island District office (which I then got later that afternoon). So, if I'm ever again in the area for some reason I can go back and take a photo. Another insisted I schedule an appointment so I wouldn't interfere with/get customers in my photograph. Which is a legitimate thing to stipulate, though it would be an absolute pain in the butt because that's a 45-minute drive from where I live.

Fortunately, after discussing this for a while at that second office, the customer line whittled away and I was allowed to take photos -- once I gave my driver's license to the supervisor, who then wrote down my license number and held onto it while I took my photos, until I let him inspect every photograph I took of the murals inside the office. Oy.

So once again, from my experiences I must declare the New York metropolitan area to be the least conducive to collectors in the country. Although there are competent people at higher levels in each of the District offices, where it really counts.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Now Serving Number 59.

I've visited three post offices in which waiting customers don't just stand in line; they take a number and get called up to be "served"! Just like a New York deli. Has anyone else witnessed this before? And if so, is this system more prevalent in certain postal districts / areas of the country?

(I can't take photos of the system in action, for obvious reasons. But it's interesting to see people standing around the lobby and checking out the Hallmark cards / philatelic sections of these offices, or sitting and writing letters, while waiting "in line". Might this system even boost auxiliary sales?)

Gainesville, Florida: General Mail Facility [retail station]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Southern HoPOSTALity

Here are shots of a few nice offices from my 2009 summer road trip to the southern U.S. (wherein I visited 247 POs over three weeks).

Post office in Cecil, Georgia [pronounced SEE-sil].

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brooklyn, NY: Another Nice Touch

Especially in large cities, there are postal facilities that aren't for customers. They go by various names in different parts of the country, but in the Northeast we call them Carrier Annexes. They're the places where postal carriers for certain communities are based.

[In Oregon, they have DCUs -- Detached Carrier Units; some go by other designations as well.]

The coolest carrier annex I've seen is in Brooklyn, NY: the Ryder Carrier Annex. It formerly held the retail operations for the community, but the "finance" operations moved three blocks down to a new facility. The old building features two full-wall murals by a Long Island artist named Bonnie Siracusa (who also painted a mural of the Brooklyn Dodgers inside the new Ryder Station post office).
Rear: 'U.S. Post Office Ryder Station Salutes America's Birthday.'

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fairfield, OH: A Nice Touch

The Fairfield, Ohio post office [a branch of Hamilton], north of Cincinnati, did something nice for its community's 50th year of incorporation: it had five large murals painted on its front and side, documenting some aspects of the pre-/history of the town.



Here are a few more images [click the thumbnails to enlarge]:
'1955-2005: Our Golden Year'

Another interesting thing about this office: It features a drive-through stamp window! It's no longer in use, but this was the third I've seen (after Laconia, NH: Lakeside Station, and Moultonborough, NH). P.S. Those 'bricks' you see on the side of the building? They're actually painted on.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Post Office Signage and Community Identity

Part of the joy of driving through rural areas lies in the distinctiveness of their post offices. Current USPS policy involves attempting to homogenize [albeit slowly] the look of most post offices in the country toward standardized, characterless blue-and-white signage. Nearly all areas of the country are affected to some degree (usually, such signage replacements occur during the renovation or replacement of offices); but fortunately, many post offices still sport their unique character with wonderful, distinctive signs. Some are hand-painted and others hand-carved into wood. Here are a few of my favorites:
Wonderful wood-carved and hand-painted signage; Murray, Iowa.

One of USPS's greatest assets lies in rural communities' connection to their small-town post offices. Such are not only places at which residents pick up their mail; they frequently serve as community gathering sites and, most importantly, marks of town identity and pride. Yes -- this means that in some parts of the country, people actually don't hate visiting the Post Office! The Postmaster of Muncie, Illinois, remarked to me one afternoon how the town of 200 had no grocery stores and no school, but ("golly") they had a post office! It's what defined them as a community.

It is the author's opinion that the removal of markings of local identity on such a community asset, in favor of those of a nationalized "brand" (akin to McDonald's), is wasteful and pointless. And frankly, it makes visiting these places a lot less enjoyable.

Below, generic post offices with new signage that do nothing toward promoting a sense of community identity. Or, as I like to refer to this segment of my post, "Let's play a round of 'Where the Heck is This?' ":
Where the heck is this? Answer: Maumee, Ohio.

So: which do you prefer?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just Stating

Presenting the first POs I visited in each state, on my own. Grayed-out states I've not yet been to, except in the case of Vermont, to which I've not been since I started collecting.

Edit [1/8/11]: First Vermont office visited. Alabama: Oxford
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California: Arcata
Colorado: Loveland
Connecticut: Darien -- [Noroton] Heights Sta.
Delaware: Claymont
District of Columbia: L'Enfant Plaza [Retail at base of Postal HQ]
Florida: Jacksonville -- BP Convenience CPU
Georgia: Savannah -- Port Wentworth Br.
Hawaii: Honolulu -- Hawaii Postal Express CPU 96815
Idaho: Island Park
Illinois: Champaign
Indiana: Covington
Iowa: Des Moines -- West Suburban Br.
Kansas: Saint Francis
Kentucky: Covington -- Dixie Br.
Louisiana
Maine: Kittery Point
Maryland: Cabin John
Massachusetts: Northampton [rejected as a teenager in 2002, attempted as a favor to my father]
Michigan: Monroe -- Luna Pier Br.
Minnesota: Minneapolis -- Dinkytown Sta.
Mississippi: Tremont
Missouri: Maryville
Montana: Garryowen
Nebraska: Red Cloud
Nevada: Carson City
New Hampshire: Laconia -- Weirs Beach Sta.
New Jersey: Linden -- Grasselli Sta.
New Mexico
New York -- unknown
North Carolina: Raleigh -- Westgate Sta.
North Dakota: Antler
Ohio: Bellevue
Oklahoma
Oregon: Moro
Pennsylvania: Woodlyn
Rhode Island: Providence -- East Side Sta.
South Carolina: Hamer
South Dakota: Buffalo
Tennessee: Middleton
Texas
Utah: Wendover
Vermont: Readsboro
Virginia: Lorton
Washington: Dayton
West Virginia: Charleston -- Stonewall Sta.
Wisconsin: Brooklyn
Wyoming: Beulah

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hunting for murals

So: I was recently questioned by a custodian, outside the Huntington, NY post office. Apparently a postal supervisor had 'caught' me taking this photo of the building for my collection, and considered me a possible security issue or similar nonsense. And so he sent an emissary to tap on my car window and question me when I got back into my car.

(It's entirely legal to take photographs of whatever you please while on public property, for the record. Anyone who says it's "illegal to take a photo of a post office, because it's 'federal property'," is woefully misinformed. Can you say "Google Street View"?)


I happened to think the office was nice, since it was reminiscent of many offices from the early 1900s. Or even the 1930s, during which the government hired artists through its WPA program to paint murals, many of which you can see to this day! Unfortunately, USPS doesn't generally appreciate people taking photographs in the lobbies of their post offices, for security, copyright, and customer privacy reasons. Doing so requires the permission of the facility head (Postmaster, Station Manager, etc.).

In any case, the building really featured a faux front. But, as it turned out I left my map inside the office. So when I re-entered the building that supervisor greeted me and, as he'd heard from his custodian that I'm interested in murals, proceeded to tell me the post office's former location, which still has its WPA mural intact.

That was nice of him.

Fortunately the insurance company that now owns the building had no issue with my documenting the mural for my photo collection, and so I feel no guilt reproducing it here. First, the old building with its present look. Then, the mural inside. It's gorgeous!, though it could use some restorative care: