Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Olympics?

Post offices of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington state, that is!

Author's Note:
I do have material for another entry or two from the Scranton area. However, I consider it somewhat unfortunate that I have not visited, shall we say, a geographically uniform distribution of post offices around the country. Due to the restraints of reality the majority of post offices I've visited are within a two days' drive of New York City: New England, Ohio, D.C., New Jersey, etc. (In fact, 20% of the post offices I've visited are in New York City and on Long Island.) As a result my posts are skewed toward post offices of the northeastern United States. It is my intention to accumulate a new array of cross-country material on a new road trip this summer while visiting states #44-47. For the time being, I hope no one's offended by the possible dearth of geographic diversity!

Back in 2008 my first cross-country road trip (during which I first became interested in documenting post offices) I stayed with friends in Seattle for 12 days before heading around the Olympic peninsula to tour the coastline of the Pacific down to San Francisco. Here are some postal photographs from the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula:

It must have been after 4:00 when I arrived in Joyce, Washington, because by then the post office had closed. It was located in the back of a country store: a beautiful building!

Joyce is 16 miles from Port Angeles, a town featured in the popular Twilight series of books. 34 miles further toward the tip of the peninsula is Clallam Bay; followed 2 miles by Sekiu, and then 16 miles further to Neah Bay, the northwestern-most town in the continental United States. Neah Bay is located on a Native reservation; there's only one main road to and from the town.

Clallam Bay, WA.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Only Lodge-ical

For part four of my series on eastern PA offices, I thought I'd offer a change of pace. I've discovered a few places in the country wherein a ski lodge represents the center of (or sole) commercial operations of a community. They also contain the sole postal operations in the community. Each possesses P.O. boxes and a retail counter. Of these three, one is a contract office, and two are independent P.O.s.

1. Lanesboro, MA: Hancock CPO:
I first looked for this post office (CPO) in the physical town of Hancock (where, in fact, it was once located). A resident noted to me that the office, while it had once in the town, was now a couple of miles away in the ski lodge within its general store; I found it here:

There I also purchased a Vanilla Coke!

The detour was not a loss, however. In addition to seeing a quaint public library, I also discovered this fantastic hand-crafted sign honoring veterans from Hancock:

2. Skytop, PA:
This office, in a postally dense part of the Poconos, is in the back of the massive Skytop Lodge, located at the top of map below. (Other offices are located in each of the four other towns shown on the map, down to Cresco.)

With the address "0 Skytop Lodge", one had to use logic to discover its location. It's in the back of the huge building (left image) -- pretty much the only one around. The right image shows a closeup of the post office sign. The office lies in the back corner of the building:

The massive Skytop Lodge.

3. Pocono Manor, PA.
Located in the basement of "0 Pocono Manor", the resort lodge in a semi-private community, this was another interesting find. The resort was buzzing due to what could have been a wedding ceremony.

While there appeared to be approximately 150 boxes in Hancock and Skytop, Pocono Manor possessed about 300 boxes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

DPO'd: Scranton, PA Edition

Welcome to the third entry in my series of postal experiences in eastern PA.

Update on my last story:
Out of curiosity I checked in on the Elmhurst post office yesterday, the day after it closed. All signage was still there (including a sign down the road that points people to the United States Postal Service); the only change was that the mail collection bin was covered with a large garbage bag.

For the first time, on this trip, I actively sought out post office former sites [see Postal Mortem: Minisink Hills, PA for my first post about this]. I was somewhat curious what would happen to the building once the post office had closed. Additionally many of these locations, to my knowledge, had not been documented in the past!

My finding is that, in this area, each storefront location that had once housed a post office is still vacant, regardless of how long ago the post office closed (a few months to several years). This includes Minisink Hills and the three locations featured in this post. It's not a conclusive finding since I didn't visit the DPO of South Sterling, PA and a couple of others in the region. But within the greater Scranton area it appears to be the case.

1. Archbald, PA: Eynon Station.
Address: 343 Main Street. Date of discontinuance: ~ several years ago.

In the window are remnants of the former signage:

2. Scranton, PA: Old Forge Branch.
Location: 133 Moosic Rd. Date of discontinuance: January 14, 2011 (a consolidation "Hit List" office).

Found in a local newspaper: (a small) photo of the office before it closed:

Noting that the former site is currently vacant, here is the site as it now stands:

The Old Forge post office was about a mile from the Scranton, PA: Taylor Branch. I believe O.F. operations were split among Taylor and Pittston's Duryea Branch.

3. Pittston, PA: Avoca Branch.
Location: 701 Main St. Date of discontinuance: ~2009

Incredibly, the primary post office signage still remains! And how beautiful it is. The building dates from the late 1800s. I believe stamps are now sold in the pharmacy next door, though there are no postal retail operations in the town. Again, note how the post office site is still vacant.

USPS does not list locations of recently closed postal locations. However, in most cases the blue collection boxes remain in front of the site. I find that searching the ZIP code or city in the Payphone Project Blue Mailbox Locator tool is the most effective way of locating former offices. USPS's Locator Tool also has an option which can give you such information, but the Payphone Project search gives you more information about the box locales. (And since its information is not entirely up-to-date, it thinks many of the postal stations and branches are still open!) I'll detail a positive find from Olyphant, PA in a later entry.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Last Day: Elmhurst, PA

Welcome to Part 2 of Going Postal's eastern PA experiences, as they happen. Today I visited 23 active post offices as well as several former sites. (More about those in another post.) Among the offices I visited was Elmhurst, PA, which experienced its last day. Meaning, it is now closed. Technically the office is temporarily suspended, but such offices rarely re-open in practice.

The town is approximately five linear miles southeast of downtown Scranton, but it is on the other side of a ridge and utterly rural.

Here's a cartographic summary of the situation (i.e., a map):

The office was already in the process of being cleaned out when I arrived at about 10:30. I was able to obtain last-day cancels, and even the former Postmaster, Lois Smith, stopped in to say hello. She was nice enough to record a little interview with me outside the office. The Last Postmaster, Addie, is now reassigned to a different Scranton-area office.

Mail delivery in Elmhurst is already taken care of by the nearby Moscow, PA post office, 2.5 miles down the road. Elmhurst box holders are being moved to the Moscow post office, wherein their numbers will be reassigned (though mail addressed to the Elmhurst box numbers will still get through).

The Elmhurst office was effectively in someone's basement. Here is a photo of the building:

Here's a (well-protected) sign in the window:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Postal Mortem: Minisink Hills, PA

Welcome to the first in a series of Going Postal entries about my experiences in eastern Pennsylvania.

My entries in this blog have focused on post offices that were open at the time of my visitation. While planning a route for my present eastern Pennsylvania trip (which also took me to 18 active post offices today), I discovered an office that was discontinued back in 2009: Minisink Hills, PA.

The location, in a strip mall across the street from an elementary school, still bears the hallmarks of a standard post office: a rear door and loading platform for mail carriers, the flagpole out front, and a handicapped ramp. Here's the building as it now stands:

Located a grand total of 0.8 driving miles from the post office that absorbed its mail delivery, Shawnee on Delaware, and 1.8 miles from Delaware Water Gap, PA, it's probable that the services of this independent post office weren't considered necessary to the community. It's the author's suspicion that a leasing dispute sealed the deal for the closure of the facility. Of course, the site remains unoccupied two years after the office's closing.

Upon closer inspection of the building, one can see the wear marks from the signage lettering:

Neither I nor the Postmark Collectors Club (which maintains the most accurate Directories of post offices throughout the country) knew the date of discontinuance for this office. Fortunately, taped inside the front door was this note from the last Postmaster:

An employee in East Stroudsburg informed me yesterday over the phone that Minisink Hills had been closed for about two years. Sure enough, January 23, 2009 was a Friday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hawai'i Revisited

Doing so many postal runs in the Northeast lately has made me nostalgic for lower latitudinal pastures. A year ago I took my spring break to Hawai'i and visited 80 post offices on two islands. (While doing other things, I assure you!) Two posts that detail experiences in Hawai'i can be found here: Big Island, Small Office and here: An Actually Colorful Post Office.

In this post I'll feature a couple of post offices from the Big Island's leeward (western, more precipitation-shielded) side.

When I flew from O'ahu to the Big Island of Hawai'i I stayed in a town up the hill from Kailua-Kona called Holualoa. The area is known for its Kona coffee, and the post office has had pictorial cancellations done for its Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. I visited the Mountain Thunder plantation while I was there. Here is Holualoa's post office:

Captain Cook (1728-1779) was memorialized on a pair of two 13-cent U.S. stamps issued in 1980. He was the first European to reach the Hawaiian islands. Known for his navigation skills and his cartographic prowess, he eventually died in a fight at the hands of Hawaiian natives.

Kailua-Kona maintains a contract unit (CPU) in the Kailua Candy Co. store. The store makes some good chocolate and looks good in a photograph, too:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Suspended: Northwest New Jersey Ed.

Operations at the post office in Johnsonburg, New Jersey were suspended on March 17, presumably to 'lease concerns'. It is unknown whether this post office will re-open. I was fortunate enough to visit Johnsonburg in a quaint, rural part of northwest Jersey and obtain its postmark back in October:
Closest post office: Greendell, NJ. Distance: 3.8 [somewhat windy] miles.

Here is Greendell:

Also nearby: The lovely office of Tranquility, New Jersey; one of the most beautiful names I know for a town.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conquering Queens

It two years, but I'm proud to announce that I've visited and documented [photographed] all 74 active postal facilities in Queens, NY, which includes the post offices of Long Island City, Jamaica, Flushing, and Far Rockaway. (And one branch -- Glen Oaks -- of Floral Park, Nassau County.)

There are 63 active offices (4 main offices and 58 stations, plus Glen Oaks), though I've visited 64 -- consider that La Guardia Airport's P.O. was discontinued; 7 CPUs (though I've visited 8, if you include the former site of the Broad Channel CPU); 3 annexes; and the Queens Processing & Distribution Facility (P&DF).

The final office, which I visited this afternoon, was Long Island City's Sunnyside Station:

Like all post offices should (but which few in urban areas do), the station had a beautiful four-bar cancel. Furthermore, "Station" and the state were fully written out; no abbreviations! (For security reasons I have never, and will never, publish scans of any postmarks from my collection here.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Of General Interest; Nassau County

A note to puzzlers: This Sunday's (March 13) New York Times Magazine crossword is of interest to postal employees and philatelists alike: the title is "Reverend Spooner, U.S.P.S.", with the theme being postal-themed spoonerisms:

"[Reverend Spooner] is remembered for a peculiar speech error he was wont to make: the transposition of the initial letters (sounds) of adjoining words, often with humorous results."

For example: 'Climb down' and 'dime clown' are spoonerisms.

One example of a postal-themed spoonerism might be (but isn't, in the puzzle) 'postmarks' and 'most parks'. Perhaps I'll post the theme clues and answers another time, but I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise now if anyone's interested in working on the puzzle now.

In other news, I completed a personal milestone this Saturday, having now visited and obtained the postmark each of the ~85 post offices in Nassau County (Long Island). The final office? Farmingdale's South Farmingdale Branch, pictured here:

P.S. 50 posts!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blast From the Past: Boston Edition

In the olden days, one could address an envelope as follows:

Legally, the postal service is under the obligation to deliver a piece of mail whenever possible. In the old days, one's carriers knew exactly where everybody lived, and the envelope would get through.

Here's another example:

[above images from]

Postal zones were introduced in larger areas in 1943. For instance, in New York, New York, postal zones generally progressed from the south of Manhattan north -- zones 1 to 40. Furthermore, in The Bronx were New York zones 51 to 75. Here are maps of Manhattan and Bronx ZIP codes.

[Aside: Mail processing for the Bronx was handled in New York until Congress authorized the institution of an independent Bronx post office and processing center. Approval occurred in August 1962. (The author has been unable to ascertain the exact date The Bronx became an independent post office.) Ironically, processing at the Bronx GPO might be moved back to Manhattan at the end of this year.]

Once postal zones were implemented, here is how people could address their mail:

The 1960s heralded the advent of ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) codes. From "By July 1963, a five-digit code had been assigned to every address throughout the country. The first digit designated a broad geographical area of the United States, ranging from zero for the Northeast to nine for the far West. This was followed by two digits that more closely pinpointed population concentrations and those sectional centers accessible to common transportation networks. The final two digits designated small post offices or postal zones in larger zoned cities."

Most post office signs show their modern ZIP codes. But I discovered two Boston post offices whose signage shows their old postal code designations: the Grove Hall Station and Belmont Branch.

Boston 21 correlated with Grove Hall in Dorchester, and became ZIP code 02121:

The Boston suburb of Belmont was the 78 zone of Boston, and now has the ZIP code 02478:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

One's Feminine Side?: New Jersey Edition

An odd post, perhaps; here is an entry featuring three post offices I've visited in New Jersey with common female names:

Presenting: Elizabeth; Norma; and Dorothy, New Jersey:
Elizabeth, New Jersey: Main Post Office; built in the 1920s.
Elizabeth is the fourth largest city in New Jersey, with a population of nearly 125,000. The grand Elizabeth Main Post Office was built in the 1920s. The interior of the office features a vaulted lobby spanned by arches, supported by marble columns. It could remind one of a small cathedral sans stained glass windows. Beautiful postmarks are available if you find the right supervisor. The city features several postal branches and stations, most of which (unlike most urban post offices) possess four-bars!

Norma is a small town just west of the rather large town of Vineland. The postal architecture is standard, and can be found all around the country. It's near Bridgeton, two of whose offices were featured in this post. The town and post office of Rosenhayn (beautiful name) lie a couple of miles away.

Dorothy is one of a chain of post offices within a few-mile span along Route 40, east of Vineland. They're largely photogenic -- Dorothy's is in what I suspect was once a house -- and represent small communities. Others along that stretch of road include Estell Manor, Richland, and Mizpah.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Holy Toledo

I suppose an article with this title should be about some old churches...

Here are some photos of Toledo post offices taken during October 2010. This particular day I visited, photographed, and obtained the postmarks from a personal record 28 post offices, in Ohio and Michigan. The post offices weren't necessarily beautiful, but they had character.

Toledo, OH: Oregon Branch. (Beautiful postmark!)