Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Postal Summary

It's hard to imagine that this blog was founded nearly a decade ago, and that this is my TENTH Postal Summary. I didn't write a lot here this past year... it's not because I haven't been up to anything (quite the contrary!), but I've been focusing more of my energies on the quicker 'n easier Instagram world. Postlandia has a popular, growing Instagram feed. I posted more than 400 (mostly) postal-related photos in 2019, including at least three P.O.s from every U.S. state.

(As always, my prior summaries can be found at these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Starting next year I'm just gonna link to this page with entries tagged "annual postal summary," heh. Let's go!)

2019 was an exciting year. I visited a decent 708 new, active postal operations this year across 18 states (in addition to re-visiting classics in New York). After correcting for a handful of errors in my spreadsheet, my grand total is now 9,994 post offices.

This year's travels included three major trips:
1. Puerto Rico / the U.S. Virgin Islands (17 days, all 144 post offices)
2. Ohio Valley / South (21 days, 351 new POs)
3. Delmarva Peninsula / eastern Virginia (13 days, 213 new POs)

Here I am at the San Antonio, Puerto Rico post office—my last in the territory, 11 days after my first. I'm holding a big, paper AAA map with every post office in Puerto circled (and highlighted, once I visited them); my finger is pointing to the San Antonio post office in the upper left corner:



Me at the Frederiksted, V.I. post office—my last in the territory, at the end of two days visiting its three main islands:



I was fortunate to be able to attend the First Day ceremony of the Post Office Murals stamps in Piggott, Arkansas on April 10, stopping at a forum: Postal Places, at Carnegie Mellon University on April 26, an event with an impressive roster of guests from postal circles. Sadly I can't find a link to the four amazing grad student-developed projects online, but here is a link to the course online.

Piggott, AR: Post Office Murals stamp ceremony

During my trip to Delmarva [Delaware / Maryland / Virginia] I took a couple of side trips into Chesapeake Bay to visit the two post offices at Smith Island, Maryland, as well as the post office in Tangier Island, Virginia. Here I am at the latter:



Thank you to the dozens of people who purchased the 2020 Postlandia calendar! Your support is always greatly appreciated. This has always been a passion project, and I don't get paid a dime to do any of this.

I had some fun mailing packages in 2019...
I have too many stamps...
As always, the counts in this post include active 'standard' post offices, Contract Postal Units (CPUs), carrier annexes, and mail processing plants. They do not include former sites (e.g. historic post office buildings), places I've previously been to but revisited (say, to take a better photo), or previously discontinued operations. Here are some assorted photos from various operations I've visited this year:

CataƱo, Puerto Rico Detached Mail Delivery Unit
Catano, PR Detached Mail Delivery Unit

Virginia Beach, Virginia: McDonald Garden Center CPU
McDonald Garden Center, Virginia Beach, VA

North Little Rock, Arkansas (former site, now library)
Old post office, North Little Rock, Arkansas

Paducah, Kentucky Carrier Annex
Paducah, Kentucky carrier annex

I continued documenting the U.S. Postal Service's New Deal treasures as well, for example:

Eutaw, Alabama: "The Countryside," by Robert Gwathmey (1941)
Eutaw, Alabama post office mural

2019 By the Numbers

I visited as many as 34 post offices (of which 31 were new) in one day this year (in the Delmarva Peninsula portion of Virginia). State by state—and territory by territory:

Puerto Rico: 132 post offices
Focus/Foci: [All post offices in the territory]

Virginia: 118 post offices
Eastern counties of the Delmarva Peninsula; Hampton Roads; Richmond

Arkansas: 79 post offices
Northeast corner; Little Rock south to El Dorado

Louisiana: 70 post offices
North central Louisiana; Alexandria

Maryland: 58 post offices
Eastern Shore

Kentucky: 47 post offices
Ohio River Valley (western counties); Berea

Delaware: 34 post offices
North of Wilmington; eastern shore; Sussex County

Missouri: 32 post offices
Southeastern corner

Alabama: 27 post offices
Birmingham; northeast corner

Pennsylvania: 21 post offices
North of Pittsburgh

Tennessee: 19 post offices
Chattanooga; Cleveland; Jellico

Mississippi: 17 post offices
East of Jackson to Meridian

Indiana: 12 post offices
Evansville, to wit:



U.S. Virgin Islands: 12 post offices
[All post offices in the territory]

West Virginia: 12 post offices
Huntington; Charleston north

Massachusetts: 7 post offices
South of Quabbin Reservoir

Ohio: 5 post offices
Random Akron to Columbus; Marietta north

Georgia: 3 post offices
Dade County (NW corner)

Illinois: 2 post offices
Brookport; Cairo

North Carolina: 1 post offices
Knotts Island

This year I finished visiting every post office in Delaware, even getting to visit the post office at Dover Air Force Base. The impetus for the trip was the 58th annual Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC) Convention, which took place in Dover, Delaware back in late September.

The "kids' table," PMCC convention:


Me at Talleyville Branch, Wilmington, DE, my final post office in the First State



Counting Counties:
I visited 100 new counties in 2019. They are the dark blue counties east of Texas and south of New York on this travel map:

Counting Counties map

Dear readers, thank you for your continued support! I'm hoping to share many more new post office stories and photos with you in 2020.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The 2020 Calendar of Post Offices and Places

[Note, 1/14: Use code ONEFIVE while ordering through Lulu, through Thursday, Jan. 16th, for 15% off.]

So! It's been a while since I've written many articles, but I've still been logging several thousand miles visiting post offices. Alas, it's that glorious time of the year that brings us pumpkin spice and the annual Postlandia Calendar of Post Offices and Places. I'm not here to write about the flavors of autumn, so hello calendar! For those of you new to the 'tradition,' the Postlandia calendar is a 12-month calendar that features a different, interesting, and photogenic post office for each month, plus a description of why it's significant. There's nothing else quite like it anywhere. This will be the fourth iteration, and the calendar has now featured at least one post office from most U.S. states.

The 2020 edition of the Postlandia calendar takes us to post offices far and wide—notably the Caribbean, home to the U.S. Post Offices of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. I've still yet to transcribe my adventures, but I visited every single P.O. in both U.S. territories earlier this year, and it was an unforgettable experience. You'll see two really cool finds from the Caribbean in the calendar. This said, the calendar also takes us to the Northwest, New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and all the way out to the Grand Canyon. The post offices are big and small, and there's something for everyone. (Everyone who's interested in post offices and/or snail mail, at least.)

Here's the direct link to the calendar on Lulu, my trusty printer.

The images are printed in high resolution (far better than I present on this site), on high-quality paper. The dates include not only U.S. holidays but dates significant to American postal history. And, yes, you can write on it—again, good paper. Thick stuff.

Postlandia Calendar cover:


The cover (and one of the months) features one of my all-time favorite post offices: Milton, Pennsylvania. Heck, I featured it in a blog post back in 2011. But I stopped back to photograph it again earlier this year with far better lighting on the building, and this gem definitely deserves another look.

Delaware: Birth of an Empire


Illinois: A "Great American Post Office"


Texarkana: Two States, one Post Office


As always, there's so much more where these came from. I hope you experience as much enjoyment with this calendar next year as I've enjoyed curating it. Remember—I've trekked to thousands of post offices (I'm presently just shy of 10,000) so I can bring you some of the very best, anywhere.

I refuse to sell advertising on any website I manage or any product I manage, so this is the only way I make even a modicum of money from this hobby. It really does make a dent in my gas money bills, so I want to thank everyone who purchases a calendar for your support.

Again, the link to the calendar is here. I've always said that this is the perfect gift for the special USPS employee or snail mail enthusiast in your life; a wonderful purchase for philatelist and stamp collectors; and generally speaking, just the perfect post office calendar. The calendar is available here, at the secure website of the high-quality printer Lulu. Everyone I know who's purchased either the 2017, the 2018, or the 2019 Postlandia post office calendar has loved it!

BONUS!!

I'm a huge fan of FDR-era (1933-1942) post offices, more than 1,000 of which house beautiful examples of New Deal artwork. Last year I introduced a second calendar that overlaps somewhat with our postal fandom, and this year I'm bringing it back: New Deal Legacy: 2020!

It features a bit of postal goodness from the FDR era, but goes way beyond to highlight some of the myriad of accomplishments put forth by various New Deal agencies across the country, including the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Public Works Administration (PWA), and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Again, each image in the calendar is accompanied by a full description of exactly what's going on.

2020 New Deal Legacy Calendar cover:


The projects...

Louisiana: Deco Justice


New Mexico: Desert Pride


Colorado: The High Road


The high-resolution images include the stories that make each one image significant. They are printed on thick, high-quality paper and will hold up to all of your writing-on-your-calendar needs. Just as with the Postlandia calendar, these span the country. There's something for everyone. Here is the combined link to my author's page that will lead you to both the the Postlandia and New Deal Legacy 2020 calendars.

Thank you for your continued support.
Evan

Thursday, July 11, 2019

30,000: the Ultimate Post Office Photo Collection Keeps Growing

Three years ago I introduced readers of this blog to the Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC)'s Online Post Office Photo Project. The Post Mark Collectors Club operates the National Postmark Museum in Bellevue, Ohio, and among its unparalleled collections is a catalogued cabinet with 60,000 printed post office photographs. The images span all 50 states, and even all U.S. counties.

As I detailed in this thorough write-up three years ago, the PMCC's digital collection of post office photographs has been expanding at an unprecedented clip. With 30,000 catalogued photos, there is no comparable collection anywhere in the world. No other institution—neither the U.S. Postal Service, National Postal Museum, Library of Congress, National Archives, nor Smithsonian Institution, manages anything like it. As of this writing images in our collection have garnered more than 3.7 million hits.

All 50 states are represented by more than 100 post office photographs; 21 states feature at least 500 photos; and five states (NY, IL, PA, TX, CA) boast more than 1,000 images. Additionally, each of the 55 darkest green counties on this heat map is represented by at least 50 photos.

Post office photograph heat map

Photo #30,000 was this photo of the Community Post Office in Nanwalek, Alaska. I was fortunate to visit all the post offices on the Kenai Peninsula back in 2016, and wrote about the adventures on this blog in this four-part series.

Nanwalek, AK Community Post Office

Please refer to this post for FAR more additional information about the project, as well as contributing new images.

Viewing the Collection
The PMCC Online Post Office Photo Collection homepage is:
http://www.postmarks.org/photos/

Here is the link to our primary Flickr page, at which you can view all our uploads chronologically, starting with the most recent:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/postoffices/

Note: © All rights reserved. We are pleased to present these photos online, but most of these images are under copyright and may not be re-used without the respective photographers' consent. Commercial usage is prohibited without the purchase of an image license. Contact me (email address in left sidebar) and I can help sort things out for you if you're interested.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Postal Tour: Champaign–Urbana, IL

Champaign–Urbana, a.k.a. Urbana–Champaign, a.k.a. Chambana, in eastern Illinois, is a twin city with a population of roughly 140,000, 125 miles from downtown Chicago. The first question that comes to mind: which came first—the Champaign or the Urbana? It was, in fact, the latter: first settled in 1822, the Urbana post office was established in 1836. It likely would have remained the only city in the area, but you can blame the railroad:

Wikipedia: "Urbana suffered a setback when the Chicago branch of the Illinois Central Railroad, which had been expected to pass through town, was instead laid down two miles west, where the land was flatter. The town of West Urbana grew up around the train depot built there in 1854, and in 1861 its name was changed to Champaign. The competition between the two cities provoked Urbana to tear down the ten-year-old County Courthouse and replace it with a much larger and fancier structure, to ensure that the county seat would remain in Urbana."

ChampaignIL.gov: "Champaign was founded in 1855, when the Illinois Central Railroad placed its tracks two miles west of downtown Urbana. Originally called “West Urbana”, it was renamed “Champaign” when it acquired a city charter in 1860. Both the city and county name were derived from Champaign County, Ohio."

The Champaign post office was established in 1860. Okay, now that we've got the basics, we can get a look at the landscape of the cities, which mutually support the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Champaign-Urbana postal map

Postally speaking, the cities are still divided: Champaign to the west, Urbana to the east. We'll start with Champaign, which has a General Mail Facility that is still used for mail processing, two stations around the city center, and a Contract Postal Unit (CPU) in the form of a Meijer. Next we'll move on to Urbana, which also has two stations around the city center and a Meijer CPU. Each also city has a beautiful old post office building from the early 20th century, and a main post office for each city has moved away from the urban core toward the extreme side of the area... which reminds me of the metaphase and anaphase stages of mitosis (cell division), wherein the cellular spindle pulls the genetic material away from the center in advance of the final division of the cells (visuals here); but I digress.

Champaign


Old Champaign Post Office:
I'll let Wiki have the honors: "The U.S. Post Office, now known as the Springer Cultural Center, is a historic government building located at Randolph and Church Streets in Champaign, Illinois. Built in 1905, the building originally served as Champaign's post office. The office of Supervising Architect James Knox Taylor designed the Beaux-Arts building. The brick building features extensive limestone and terra cotta ornamentation. The front facade has four pairs of Ionic pilasters separating the entrance and two sets of windows. A frieze reading "UNITED STATES POST OFFICE" and a dentillated cornice run above the pilasters. A balustrade runs along the front edge of the roof; a large scrolled cartouche marks the center of the balustrade."

The building received additions in 1929 (that was razed seven years later; a larger addition was built in 1936), and was converted into a what was known as the Springer Federal Building in 1966. Listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 [nomination form / even more history here], the building was deeded to the Champaign Park District in 1991.

Springer Cultural Center (Old Post Office), 2017:
Springer Cultural Center (Old Post Office), Champaign, IL

You can find amazing images of the building at various points in its history at ChampaignHistory.com, here.

Neil Street Station:
The post office on Neil Street, located near the Springer Cultural Center, opened in 1966 (replacing the old federal building); I believe this acted as the main post office until the opening of the General Mail Facility in 1991. The Postal Service owns both properties.

Neil Street Station post office, Champaign, IL

General Mail Facility:
This 191,000-square-foot facility, located in the far northwest of Champaign near I-74, opened in 1991. It continues to process outgoing mail.

As seen in (a) 2008 and (b) 2017:
Champaign General Mail Facility
Champaign General Mail Facility

Station A:
The Postal Service also owns this 4,000-square-foot operation, located on the east side of Champaign, in 'Campustown' near Urbana. The building, which opened in 2000, bears a design common to USPS-owned facilities built at the time.

Station A post office, Champaign, IL

Meijer CPU:
Meijer #146, Champaign, IL

Meijer #146 is found on Prospect Avenue, north of I-74. Like other Meijer stores, it has a Contract Postal Unit (CPU).

Urbana


Downtown Station / Old Main Post Office:
Downtown post office, Urbana, IL

Built in 1914-5 with an addition dating to 1935, the old post office was constructed in downtown Urbana, right by the Champaign County Courthouse. The building bears a 1914 cornerstone. It housed Urbana's primary postal services until the main office relocated in 1998.

Downtown Urbana, IL post office cornerstone

Articles seem to suggest that the building was vacant for some time before IMC, an "independent media group," "closed on the building on Thursday in a deal with the federal government for $218,320." News-Gazette reporting continues:

"The 1914 structure just north of Lincoln Square was replaced by a new facility near the corner of U.S. 150 and Illinois 130 in east Urbana. A decade earlier, in 1986, it had undergone a $1 million renovation. The solid, brick edifice has three floors, each more than 9,000 square feet, as well as a 6,000-square-foot lobby."

As part of the sale arrangement, the Postal Service is allowed to retain a presence in the building, leasing back 3,000 square feet for Downtown Station for $1 a year. (The building houses several other tenants as well, not for that cost.) The post office is located to the right when entering by the building's main entrance. It has a P.O. Box Section external to the retail lobby, and features a display of old images from the time of the building's original construction and 1935 extension. Here is an image of the outer lobby, and one of the historic images:

Downtown Urbana, IL post office

Downtown Urbana, IL post office construction, 1935

University Station:
Aside from finding parking, this was an enjoyable visit. Urbana's University Station post office is located on the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign campus, on the first floor at historic Altgeld Hall, south of W. Green Street. The post office is located inside the south entrance to the building that faces S. Wright Street. The inside is not much to look at, but the Richardsonian Romanesque-style building, which dates to 1897, certainly is!

Altgeld Hall, from the SW (postal entrance behind the bikes): Altgeld Hall

University Station post office, Altgeld Hall: University Station post office in Altgeld Hall, Urbana, IL

Main Post Office:
Located at the eastern extreme of developed Urbana, this 27,544-square-foot USPS-owned facility opened in 1998. Its design is par for its vintage.

Urbana, IL main post office

Meijer CPU:
Meijer #247, Urbana, IL

Meijer #247 is off Philo Road in the southeast part of the city. Like other Meijer stores, it has a Contract Postal Unit (CPU).

Hope you enjoyed this thorough accounting of this corner of the country. 'Til next time,
Evan

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Holcomb, Kansas

This is a modest entry, one that occurred to me only a year after I visited the town of Holcomb, Kansas and, somewhere along the same road trip that took me there, listened to This American Life: Our Town. If you've heard this episode you'll understand. Finney County, Kansas, has seen a sizable influx of Latino workers to this rural, stereotypically deep red pocket of a deep red state. But as KHI reports, "the Hispanic population has continued to grow steadily. Latinos make up nearly half of the total population in Finney County." Driving into Holcomb from the west I noticed a huge (perhaps 85-acre) meat processing facility owned by Tyson Fresh Meats... again, this is not commentary; if you're heard those episodes of This American Life, you'll understand why I bring this up.

What brought me to Holcomb originally was, well, two things: 1. When I'm in an area I visit all the post offices in said area; and I was in southwest Kansas to begin with (see previous post); and 2. Holcomb, specifically, I wanted to visit because I'd read Truman Capote's In Cold Blood back in 2015, as subway reading fodder. Thanks to the MTA you know you'll probably have some extra time on your hands. Anyway, I'd wanted to visit Holcomb and Garden City ever since I read the book.

So: just a map of what's going on in town. I've missed making some Postlandia maps!

Holcomb, KS map with Clutter farm and post offices

Coming in to town from U.S. 50, you pass the schools on the way to the current post office, a generic 3,200-square-foot facility that's been in use since 1998. The entrance to the parking lot is smack-dab off the inside of a huge curve in the road. I recall it being slightly awkward.

Holcomb, Kansas post office
Holcomb, Kansas post office

From here I headed toward the Clutter farm, which you can see takes me straight through North Main Street. I instantly picked out the building, on the east side of the road, that had previously served as the post office. But let's save that for a bit later. My primary destination was the Clutter farm. To get there you need to drive on an unpaved road: Oak Avenue, 1150 feet until its end. While the road curves north a dirt driveway continues on straight another third of a mile; the end of the driveway is the closest you can get to the home (alas, no trespassing signs)—gotta respect folks' privacy! I was able to snag a couple of photos at this point: 1, the driveway, with alternating trees; you can see the farm and house. Next, a telephoto of the house (this is why I love my 50x optical zoom lens!). For those who've read the book, I'll just leave these here for you to ponder.

Old Clutter farm / driveway:
Old Clutter farm, driveway, Holcomb, KS

Old Clutter house:
Old Clutter house, Holcomb, KS

Back on North Main Street, I got a couple of photos of the La Popular Grocery Store (a.k.a. the old post office). I love it; it's got character, a sign of an evolving community; of renewal. First, here is the building as it appears as the grocery store in 2018. Second, here is the building back when it served as Holcomb's post office (a photo by Postlandia friend John Gallagher), taken back in 1994. Again, even without having seen that image beforehand the building was instantly recognizable as a standard post office design.

La Popular Grocery Store, 2018:
La Popular Grocery Store, 2018

(Old) Holcomb post office, 1994:
Old Holcomb, Kansas post office

You can notice a couple of changes to the front of the building, notably that the brick is now exposed whereas it had previously been covered. I like the new, bare appearance better. This comparison made possible thanks to the Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC) Online Post Office Photograph Collection! It's currently up to 441 photos from Kansas.

'Til next time,
Evan