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
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.
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
Oregon: Moro
Pennsylvania: Woodlyn
Rhode Island: Providence -- East Side Sta.
South Carolina: Hamer
South Dakota: Buffalo
Tennessee: Middleton
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:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Switching sides

Post offices come in two flavors: Classified, which refers to offices that are operated by post office personnel; and contract -- operated by contractors paid a fixed or percentage-of-revenue amount by USPS. Such are called CPUs -- Contract Postal Units.

Contract offices are convenient for locations that couldn't support the full-time salary and infrastructure cost of a full post office (like Broad Channel, Queens, NY); or as a supplemental location to a busy post office for the sale of stamps and the mailing of packages with basic services (such as in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY, which effectively features two post office locations within 250 feet, and another two blocks down the road). Newer and rapidly growing cities frequently feature more contract units than actual post offices, since it costs less to operate one than to build and open a new classified office (see St. Augustine, FL, among dozens of cities in Florida). Still more have operated in the community for decades, and continue as the sole operations in a given community (as in Center Tuftonboro, NH, which operates in the general store which has been around since 1822).

The latter are a special type of CPU, known as a CPO (Community Post Office); before 1971, they were known as rural branches / stations. Such have been featured in previous posts on this blog -- namely An Actually Colorful Post Office [Hawi, Hawai'i] and Big Island, Small Office [Ninole, Hawai'i].

Generally speaking, there's a clear distinction between the two varieties of offices. However, I have come across a few post offices which have "switched flavors" while remaining in the same location. Like neutrinos, I suppose.

In this instance, the Post Office took over a contract operation, and now runs it with USPS personnel. Sometimes such a transition occurs due to fraudulent bookkeeping or other violations on the part of the contractor (though in this instance, I don't know the cause). Honolulu, Hawai'i's Uptown Station had a creative approach to saving material during the change:

The Bronx, New York's Bathgate Station was originally a classified post office and is close to the Tremont Station. Perhaps too close. Instead of closing the office, the facility is run as a service to the community under contract, and the contractors provide a few additional business services:

The Franklin, Tennessee Five Points Station looks and feels like a real post office, because it is one. Well, was one. See for yourself [in this Wikipedia photo]:

This facility, which dates to 1926, earned itself a spot on the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places 1991, by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As the town had expanded, the post office needed more space to operate. It built a new facility on the outskirts of the town, but contracted out the downtown post office operations to keep the building functional. Other local cultural operations now make their home there.

[Here's the new Franklin, TN Main Post Office facility:]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

'Appraising' an obscure office in Manhattan

Down a nondescript hallway on the fourth floor [of the 34] of 580 5th Ave., New York, lies an actual post office. There are no signs for it outside the building, and inside there's no sign of it until you physically reach its door on the hall's right-hand side. The only way to know it's there is to view its listing on USPS's online locator tool ahead of time, and ask yourself why there's a location just three blocks south of the huge Rockefeller Center PO.

A photo of the exterior of the building:

The oddest part about the Appraisers Stores post office is that you can't mail a letter there, even if you try. Shipping that book you sold on Amazon? Nope. That care package of cookies to your kid at camp? Fuhgeddaboudit. This post office serves one purpose -- to accept Registered Mail. As it turns out there's lots of it here, since this building is the heart of the Diamond District in Manhattan. Not just at the heart of the Diamond District -- the heart. Just look at the truck out front!

(Actually, the post office can also sell you some stamps -- but that's it.)

For a more detailed history of the Diamond District, a man named Stephen Kilnisan offers tours of this one city block. (An interesting read!) A full view of the building is available here, along with an architectural history of the building itself.

Appraisers Stores was the first post office I visited that requires a security check, including fingerprinting and ID scan, to get to. Although, that wasn't surprising once I realized this is the hub of diamond jeweling in New York City. Heck, that also explains why this post office exists to begin with. Consider: You have a million-dollar shipment to transport. Are you going to take it outside, walk the three blocks, and wait in line at Rockefeller Center's post office three blocks away? ... I didn't think so. You'd probably want to stay within your secure building and ship it upstairs.

I have no idea as to the specifics (and I wouldn't disclose them if I did), but I can only suspect the security precautions taken at this facility are quite high. A former supervisor with whom I started discussing stamp collecting at another post office suggested that many packages shipped from this location require private insurance, well in excess of the $25,000 maximum per package granted by USPS.

In terms of philately, one can't mail out for the Appraisers Stores postmark. Why? Because they can't actually mail it back! Only Registered Mail is accepted, so I believe this one has to be obtained in person (or possibly serviced by a supervisor at a neighboring office). You'd better be ready to prove you're a philatelist; they don't take this postmark lightly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A beautiful post office: Greenville, PA

[Edit: 11/22/11: I'm guessing people want to see interior shots too, so I might add those shortly.]

View Larger Map

I thought the 1920s post office in Greenville, PA was the most stunning I'd ever come across [after visiting 1,300+ offices]; and I thought I'd share a couple of exterior photos of it with you:

This was the first post office I'd seen with that orange hue. (I came across another, that day, in Niles, Ohio.) Notice the beautifully preserved cornices. The interior is grand as well, featuring more black marble (akin to that surrounds the doors -- see first photo); a well-preserved ornate ceiling; and gorgeous counters supported by decorative wrought iron. This post office was built before the Depression and so features no WPA mural.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A "stately" post office

There are many towns in the country that share names with other states. Here's a nice small one (Delaware, New Jersey) that I visited a week ago, and had a nice sign out front: "Oldest post office in New Jersey in its original building".

The Delaware post office (and this building) date to 1884, though the USPS Postmaster Finder notes that a post office in the township dates back to 1824, when Ramsaysburgh was established. (The first Postmaster's name was James Ramsay.) The name was changed to Delaware Station in 1858, and again to Delaware in 1884.

The 2000 census population of the town was 159.

Two days later I came across the post office for Nevada ["Neh-VAY-da"], Ohio: